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East Side Church needs a Hail Mary

I have visited many churches, not because I am religious, but rather because they are some of the finest pieces of architecture. They were among the tallest buildings in their time filled with fabulous statues and stained glass. They were constructed with acoustics in mind, and massive in size.

Attending one of the most beautiful churches in Buffalo (St Paul’s Cathedral) while growing up, made me an early fan of church architecture. Everywhere I have traveled, I always scout out and visit amazing churches and temples.

In our city, I recently was saddened to see the condition of the historic Sacred Heart Church at 198 Emslie Street in Buffalo.

The very reason I was down on the East Side was to check out the condition of Transfiguration Church at 929 Sycamore – the day before its roof collapsed. The front doors were open, and I followed a city inspector inside and saw massive devastation. I took these photos on my cell phone and left.

Roof collapse at Transfiguration Church

That saddening visit made me want to check out the status of the Sacred Heart Church. What I saw was a church that may already be lost beyond repair. At the same time some of the original architectural beauty still survives in a church that is, for all intents and purposes, destroyed.

A wide-open window frame at the back of the church was unsealed which allowed for easy entry. The altar area is completely stripped of all bearings, and the back wall has been spray painted with tags. Dirt and garbage is everywhere.

The massive stained glass window area in the front has lost the most of its glass – being smashed out, although some panels exist untouched.

There have been so many things this structure has gone through since it was abandon 12 years ago in 2008.

Historically, the congregation began in 1876, originally in the Larkinville area of the city, but was eventually bought out. The Larkin company purchased the original church in 1912 for $135,000 and then constructed the current church at 198 Emslie. The congregation worshiped in the new 550+ person church, and even built an auditorium, school, and rectory. The parish worshiped there until 1988, upon which time the congregation sold the church to the group who would later abandon it. The auditorium would be torn down for parking years earlier, and the school would be forced to be torn down because of a roof collapse after a snowstorm.

Sadly, the City paid $160,000 for the school to be torn down. The City tried to bill the church for the cost of demolition, to no avail. This same group still owns the church and it just sits and sits there. It is so sad… unless something is done soon, the City will assuredly look to tear down the church at everyone’s expense.

Written by Phillip Szal

Phillip Szal

The Golden Girls, Traveling the World, and the Bills are my passions in no specific order.

View All Articles by Phillip Szal
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