One of Explore Buffalo’s popular tour offerings is the Sacred Spaces tour series, supported by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo. Among Buffalo’s most visible churches is Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church due to its prominent placement at the bend in Porter Avenue. Many in Buffalo are also familiar with the Holy Angels name from its longtime association with the schools of the same name. This history of Holy Angels Church was written by Explore Buffalo docent Dolores Prezyna, a graduate of adjacent D’Youville College.
In 1849 Bishop John Timon, the first Catholic bishop of Buffalo, invited the Oblates to assist him in founding a parish and a seminary. Three priests from Montreal accepted the invitation and in 1852 land was purchased for $13,000 in an area on the outskirts of Buffalo known as Prospect Hill to build the permanent home for Holy Angels Church. At the time of purchase this land contained two abandoned buildings and today borders Porter Avenue, York Street, Plymouth Avenue, Connecticut Street, and Fargo Avenue.
The present French Romanesque Revival church was built in 1859 and later enlarged in 1875. The two Tiffany stained-glass windows on the main altar were displayed during the Pan American Exposition of 1901. The window of Mary Queen of Heaven is shown here (inset left).
The Oblates went on to found a seminary as well as Bishop Fallon High School in Buffalo for young men and the co-ed St. John Neumann High School in Williamsville. Their educational mission continued, and in 1857 the Oblates invited the Grey Nuns of the Cross from Canada to come to Buffalo to found a school. Holy Angels School was founded and opened with 26 students up to eighth grade. In 1906 a new school was built on West Ave. for over 500 students. In 1988 Holy Angels School closed and merged with twelve other parishes to found the Catholic Academy of West Buffalo.
Two Tiffany stained-glass windows on the main altar were displayed during the Pan American Exposition of 1901.
Today the former school’s Beaux Art building on West Avenue houses D’Youville College’s Montante Library (see photo). The Grey Nuns also founded Holy Angels Academy, an elementary and secondary school for girls, and in 1874 a new Second Empire Style structure on Porter Avenue became the Academy’s home. The building on Porter Avenue expanded as the Academy grew with a West Wing added in 1881 and an East Wing added in 1900.
The parish of Holy Angels continued to serve the West Side community and between 1959 and 1962 served over 2400 families. As Buffalonians exited the city in the following years, participation at Holy Angels declined. After over a century and a half of service to the residents of Buffalo’s West Side, Holy Angels Church on Porter Ave. will close on July 25, 2020.
Sister Sheila Driscoll, GNSH, D’Youville College Archivist, September, 1982
The Administration Building, 1874-1900
James Napora, Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York
Chuck LaChiusa, Buffalo as an Architectural Museum, Exterior Holy Angels RC Church
Dr. Nancy Kaczmarek, GNSH, former Archivist, D’Youville College, email correspondence
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