Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
SAINT CASIMIR'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - 1927
Weimer at Casimir (NE)
Architect: Chester Oakley
Throughout the late 1880s and early 1890s, a number of Polish immigrant families began to settle in the Clinton/Weimer Street area. Being new to the country, they were attracted to the area by the availability of employment in nearby industries. Since the area was relatively undeveloped, they did not have a place in which they could gather for religious purposes. In the late 1880s, forty families presented a petition to Bishop Stephen Ryan requesting that he provide a priest to serve the area. He responded by providing a number of priests who commuted here to lead Sunday mass.
In 1890, Bishop Ryan granted the requests of the people for a full time priest when he appointed Rev. E. Wider to establish a parish in the area. Later that year, on land donated by City Judge Daniel J. Kenefick at the corner of Casimir and Weimer, he began constructing a combination church/school/rectory. The building was commonly referred to as "Noah's Ark" due its wide, long shape. The congregation dedicated the $12,000 frame building during services on 16 November, 1890.
The following ten years brought a period of uncertainty. With the departure of Rev. Wilder in 1891, a succession of priests served the parish, many of them commuting from St. Stanislaus parish on Peckham Street. On 20 January, 1900 the Diocese appointed Rev. Francis Kasprzak as pastor. Under his direction,the parish experienced an unprecedented level of growth which mirrored that of the surrounding neighborhoods. In 1903, the congregation totaled 1,200 members. By 1906 he embarked on an ambitious building program which resulted in the replacement of the original frame church with a combination church/school building. Completed at a cost of $78,000, the building was dedicated on 24 November, 1908.
In June, 1915 the diocese appointed Rev. Anthony Majewski as pastor. Under his guidance, the parish began an aggressive program of improvements to the property and the surrounding area. He arranged to have the streets in the area paved, remodeled a portion of the original church building into additional classroom space and then demolished the unused portion of the then vacant building. He also arranged to have the grounds of the church landscaped, enhancing the overall appearance of the neighborhood.
These improvements of the property and the surrounding area served to further increase the appeal of the neighborhood, resulting in an influx of people. By 1926, under instructions from the Diocese, the people of St. Casimir's began planning for the construction of the current house of worship. Rev. Majewski became personally involved in all aspects of the planning process. In 1923, he had traveled throughout Europe and the Near East, returning with a vast knowledge on the design of churches there. It was this knowledge that formulated his ideas on how the new building should appear. He aspired to have a building which would one of a kind in the Diocese and perhaps in the United States.
He contacted Buffalo architect Chester Oakley and communicated his ideas to him. The Byzantine Style, typical of the mosque of St. Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey which melded the domical construction of the East with the trussed or vaulted styles of the West, served as the model for the new church. Ground was broken in 1926 and the cornerstone was placed 2 May, 1927. The church was dedicated in service on 5 May, 1929.
The total expenditure for the 1,200 seat building was almost $500,000. This total includes approximately $140,000 spent on interior finishes alone. The church is richly adorned with detailing created by associate architect Joseph E. Fronczak. The main facade, with its terra cotta angels, is centered on a frieze depicting Christ the King, St. Casimir, St. Stanislaus and St. Hyacinth above the main entrance. Two small cupolas balance the recessed arch of the entrance.
The beauty of the interior is a direct result of the simplicity of the design. Upon entering the church, the focus is placed upon the Buticino marble altar which is set under a 65 foot high arch. The twelve monumental columns lining the nave are surmounted by statues of the twelve apostles. These statues were hand carved in a monastery in Europe. The Stations of the Cross are all originally executed oil paintings.
© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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