St. John's Grace Episcopal Church - Table of Contents

St. John's Grace Episcopal Church - History

Grace Episcopal Church and St. John's Episcopal Church merged in February 1972. Below the illustrations is a brief history of each church.


Click on illustrations for larger size and additional information

Grace Church:
C. 1827 Union Meeting House (the
Breckenridge Street Presbyterian Church)

Grace Church:
2002 photo of same building in the previous illustration

Grace Church:
Church at Lafayette and Congress

St. John's:
1848 church at Swan and Washington Streets


St. John's:
1848 church at Swan and Washington Streets

St. John's:
1848 church at Swan and Washington Streets

St. John's:
1848 church at Swan and Washington Streets


Grace Church

St. John's Episcopal Church

St. John's Episcopal Church was founded in 1845. Episcopalians had outgrown the two existing churches, St. Paul's and Trinity; thus, St. John's was the third oldest Episcopal congregation in Buffalo.

Organized in 1845, the original St. John's was built 1846-48 on land donated by Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company for religious purposes. Apparently the St. John's congregation and the Episcopal Church won a legal dispute as to whether the land could be sold for commercial purposes.

The church was built of local, quarried from the Granger Quarry, as it was then known, now a part of Delaware Park.

The founding committee included Mayor (later Buffalo Superior Court Judge ) Joseph Masten, Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo, and William Bird (Bird Avenue takes its name from the family).

The Building Committee selected a lot at the southwest corner of Swan and Washington Streets at a cost of $8,000. To help finance the construction, a diagram was made of the floor space of the Church, marking out the pews. A value was put on these pews ranging from $50 to $500, and then they were sold at auction to the highest bidder. Over $16,000 was thus realized before ground had been broken for the foundation. Owners of pews thereafter were to pay an annual tax according to that assessed value of the pew for the current expenses of the Church. At first this tax was l0%, but as the years passed, it got as high as 25%. This was a clever device and was commonly used in financing church buildings.

In 1846, when the building was completed, the church claimed to be the widest church in the US whose roof was unsupported by pillars.

The West Window given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis G. Northrup by Mr. and Mrs. Seymour H. Knox.

On July 4, 1868, a fireworks rocket lodged in the woodwork between the four stone columns of the tower started a fire that destroyed most of the church. The church was rebuilt.

In the 1880s, this church was called "Free St. John's" because the congregation eliminated traditional pew rents and relied on voluntary pledges as their source of income.

When the congregation erected a new church in 1893 on Colonial Circle, the earlier building was sold. Later, in 1906, it was demolished to make way for the first Statler Hotel, a fine, cream terra cotta structure. This building afterwards became the Hotel Buffalo when the new Statler went up on Niagara Square and Delaware on the site of the Millard Fillmore residence.

The southeast corner of Swan and Washington, the location of the 1848 church is now occupied by the baseball stadium.

In 1892, James H Marling designed a church and chapel for St. John's; the chapel was completed the following year, but his church design was never executed. The chapel was built of Indiana limestone with a seating capacity of about 200, and a mortgage of $4,000. In 1893 the parish moved to 51 Colonial Circle

In 1907 the chapel was enlarged.

Today the original chapel, intact, is used as a storage room; the enlarged chapel has a dropped ceiling and is used as a meeting room with stage.


Sources:


Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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