Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
SAINT MARY OF SORROWS ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - Table of Contents
SAINT MARY OF SORROWS ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - 1887
(CHURCH OF THE SEVEN DOLARS)
Genesee at Rich Street (NW)
Architect: Adolphus Druiding
In the late 1860s and early 1870s, a large number of predominantly German families began to settle in the Genesee/Fillmore district. At that time the closest Catholic parishes were St. Louis on Main Street downtown and St. Ann's on Broadway. The distance to either of these places of worship proved to be too great for many of those settling in the area. Consequently, a number of the residents petitioned the Catholic Diocese to establish a parish in their neighborhood. The Diocese, heeding their request, appointed the Rev. William Grundlach to this task.
In early 1872, Rev. Grundlach secured the present site and began planning for the construction of a house of worship. On 2 June,1872, he placed the cornerstone of their first church, dedicating it on 21 October. The area developed rapidly during the 1870s, and by the early 1880s, the congregation had outgrown their original building. To keep up with the increase in population, they enlarged the building in 1884, as they could not afford to construct a new one. They rededicated their enlarged building on 3 August, 1884.
A little over one year had passed before the congregation once again outgrew their brick house of worship. The parishioners held a meeting on 23 January, 1886 to discuss their possibilities. They ruled out again enlarging their overtaxed church, instead opting to construct a larger house of worship. Backed by a congregation which grew almost daily, the Rev. Anton Heiter contracted Adolphus Druiding of Chicago to design their new building. Seeking to recall the congregation's German heritage, Druiding based the design of the new building on Worms Cathedral in Germany. During construction, rising costs forced Rev. Heiter to alter the original plans for the church.
On 15 August, 1886, ground was broken for the church and the cornerstone was placed 19 June of the following year. The building was formally dedicated on 20 September, 1901. It was not until 1905 that the landmark tower, capped with its towering cross, was completed.
The building, with an interior length of 204 feet and a transept width of 104 feet is constructed of native Buffalo Plains blue limestone. The ceiling rises sixty-eight feet above the floor of the nave and the lantern at the crossing, crowned with a trumpeting angel, reaches a height of ninety-two feet above the floor. The interior is lit by magnificent stained glass windows some of which feature the Seven Dolars, or sorrows of the Virgin Mary.
The church is distinguished by its many rounded towers, a hallmark of the Rhenish Romanesque style. The square main tower, rising to a height of 235 feet, contains a clock donated by Michael Zeis as a family memorial. Designed by Zeis, founder and head of M. Zeis & Sons Planing Mill, Door and Box Factory, the clock was manufactured by the Howard Clock Company.
In January, 1947, as the building was undergoing repairs and redecoration for its 75th anniversary, a workers blowtorch sparked a three-alarm fire which quickly spread through the roof. The walls and windows escaped serious damage but the interior of the church was totally destroyed. The congregation proceeded to carry out a complete restoration costing $500,000.
The congregation continued to worship in the building until 1985. At that time, citing mounting costs to make necessary repairs to a building which was underutilized by its congregation, the Catholic Diocese closed and considered demolishing it. The building, having undergone major structural work is being transformed into the King Urban Life Center, a function which will once again give it back to the community.
© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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