Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
SAINT MICHAEL'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - Table of Contents
SAINT MICHAEL'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - 1864
651 Washington street
Architect: Patrick C. Keeley
The fourth congregation resulting from the internal strife in St. Louis Church on Main Street, a group of Alsatians formed St. Michael's in the early months of 1851 after efforts of missionaries appointed by Bishop Timon failed to restore peace. They had left St. Louis due to the struggle for control of parish finances initiated by other Alsatian members of the congregation, believing the others were wrong to oppose the Catholic Diocese. Under the guidance of Rev. Lucas Caveng, a Jesuit priest, they established their own parish, celebrating their first mass in the basement of St. Peter's Church on 18 May, 1851.
With the Bishop remaining sympathetic to their plight, he offered them use of the Squire Estate on Washington Street. He had purchased the property earlier for the construction of the cathedral and gave it to the Jesuits for a reasonable sum provided they build a school and a church on it for German speaking Catholics. They immediately proceeded to construct a modest brick church on the site, placing the cornerstone on 20 August, 1851. With the members of the congregation personally constructing the church, they completed and dedicated it on 1 January, 1852.
Within twelve years, they found the church to be too modest to meet the needs of the people. On 31 July, 1864, the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, they placed the cornerstone for the current house of worship. Completed at a cost of $120.000, Bishop Lynch of Toronto dedicated the building on 16 June, 1867. At that time, the distinctive tower was not complete, it being added by 1876. In 1884, the lantern crowning the tower was added.
The Jesuits administered the parish from its inception until 1868. At that time priests from the German Province of the Society of Jesus began work there. As a result of the work by the Jesuits, the parish has developed deeply rooted ties with Canisius College which originally was located next to the church.
The building, designed by Patrick C. Keeley, architect of St. Joseph's Cathedral on Franklin Street, is constructed of Buffalo limestone, Lockport silverstone and red and white Albion sandstone. On 23 May, 1962 lightning struck the building. The resulting fire left the building a roofless shell. Although the exterior resembles that of the original, the interior dates from the 1962 reconstruction. At that time the height of the tower was reduced by fifty-five feet and the stone used to construct the baptistery on the north side of the 1016 seat house of worship.