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The Magavern-Sutton Courtyard

Buffalo Seminary recently added a “secret garden” to its campus. As part of its Remarkable Opportunities capital campaign, the school was able to convert a run down alleyway that ran through center of the campus, into a pristine and functional pedestrian thoroughfare that seconds as a parkway. The transition is not only stunning, it gives the school a safe and secure green space to rally around throughout the year.


Over the years, Buffalo SEM managed to acquire five houses that extended the footprint of the school’s campus. The dwellings have been used to house upwards of 50 full boarding students at any given time, mostly international. Each of the homes is run by residential directors who are also teachers at the school. At one point, a decision was made to take down the beat up garages that once occupied the space between the houses. With the garages gone, the vision for the courtyard was soon realized.


It was landscaper and SEM alumna, Mary Magavern Worrell ’60, who was given the task to create the courtyard as we know it today. The gated courtyard features heated sidewalks, a rain garden, rain barrels, bike racks, benches, picnic tables, and native plantings. The new interactive space not only connects all of the buildings with the school, it also acts as a place where teachers and students can gather to study, and for luncheons, reunions, weddings, graduation parties and faculty meetings. The courtyard is also large enough to host all 200+ girls for assembly. 


“The courtyard has changed the nature of the school,” said SEM’s Head of School, Helen L. Marlette. “It’s an international courtyard that has become the heart and soul of the school. This is where people come and go – it is always full of life. The students never had anything like this before – it’s hard to imagine that this was once a back alley with dilapidated garages. The project was made possible thanks to a capital campaign that raised over $9 million. Along with the courtyard, we were able to have the exterior of the historic school building repointed, and our chapel refurbished.”

The secret courtyard, now considered the heart of SEM’s campus, was largely made possible thanks to a significant donation by Bill and Linda’73 Magavern. It is named for the Magaverns, as well as longtime teacher Gary Sutton.


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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