Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
First Church of Christ, Scientist - 1911
220 North Street at Elmwood (SW)
Architect: Solon S. Beman
Founded 4 September, 1888
First Church of Christ, Scientist - Table of Contents
In the early 1880s, an unknown woman residing in Buffalo suffered from an infliction which doctors were unable to heal. Sympathizing with her plight, a friend offered a pamphlet dealing with Christian Science. The woman accepted and read the pamphlet, and after doing so, saw her health return to normal.
Word of this occurrence was sent to Boston, Massachusetts. Upon hearing this, Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the church, appointed Mrs. Annie V. C. Leavitt to travel to Buffalo to institute and facilitate the healing work of Christian Science. After working here for a few months, she established a small following. On 4 September, 1888 she held a meeting in a home at 180 14th Street where, with thirteen people present, she organized the First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Buffalo. At that time no one person was named to lead the church. Still, the work progressed and members diligently spread the word, going from door to door distributing literature. When asked, they would also assist in healing.
As more people became interested in Christian Science and with the size of the group increasing, in 1889 Mrs. Leavitt initiated regular meetings in the Teck Theater, on the southwest corner of Main Street and Edward. In May of the following year, they moved to the Chapter House which stood on Johnson Park. Desiring a place of their own, on 21 November, 1891 they purchased the former West Side Presbyterian church at 203 Jersey at a cost of$15,300. With their initial service on 10 January, 1892, it became the first building in New York dedicated for Christian Science services.
The year 1910 proved to be pivotal for the congregation. on 17 January, they voted and accepted new bylaws of the church. Opposed to a portion of these bylaws, Mrs. Leavitt and a group of her followers seceded from the congregation to establish a Christian Science Church independent of the Mother Church in Boston. Later that year, on 10 July the congregations of the First Church and the Second Church on Linwood Avenue voted to unite as one body, a resolution which they adopted on 8September.
Immediately the united congregations took note of their cramped quarters in the Jersey Street Church. At that time, they established a building fund to raise capital towards the construction of a new house of worship. A collection on the first Sunday of each month was established to further enrich the fund. On 8 November, 1910 the congregation signed the contract with Chicago architect S. S. Beman for the design of their new house of worship.
On land they had purchased in 1899, they broke ground on 2 October, 1911. On 7 May, 1912, at seven in the morning, they placed the cornerstone. The following year, on 28 September, they celebrated the first service in their new building. Constructed at a cost of $175,000. their new house of worship placed quite a financial burden upon the congregation. At the start of construction, they had raised $88,000 towards the total cost. Pledges towards the remaining balance were not always honored in a timely matter. But through hard work and perseverance,, the congregation dedicated their building, debt free, on 2 January, 1916.
The congregation remained at their North Street property until holding their last service there in November, 1992. At that time, they moved to a storefront location on Main Street near Mohawk.
A native of Chicago, Beman's design elicits the fascination with neoclassicism popularized by the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Six monumental pillars support the entrance portico to the building. Inside, the 1.200 seat auditorium is crowned with a forty panel skylight.