Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
ST. STANISLAUS BISHOP & MARTYR ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - 1883-1886
Peckham at Wilson (NE)
Architect: T. 0. Sullivan
Founded 8 June, 1873
For a period of time prior to 1870, Polish immigrants began to settle in Buffalo. Being a minority group, they were more or less forced to assimilate to the existing cultures here. Initially settling within the German community, they soon grew in numbers until they constituted a large part of the population there. During this principal period of settling, they initially worshiped with the Germans at St. Mary's on Broadway (destroyed). They always stood in the rear, not daring to sit within the main body of the building. As they grew in size and number, Rev. James Nagel, pastor of the church, arranged for them to use the chapel at St. Michael's on Washington Street.
With the Buffalo arrival of Bohemian priest Rev. Ivaneff Marie Gartner on 8 December, 1872, the seeds for a congregation were sown. He began several days of church services, preaching to the people in broken Polish and advising them to organize. On 12 December, 1872 they founded the Society of St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, the roots of the present parish. Having accomplished this, Rev. Gartner departed for Rome.
During this period, many theology students in Europe began training for positions in North America. One of them, John Pitass, wrote a manuscript which caught the attention of Rev. Gartner resulting in his being assigned to a position in Buffalo. On 7 June, 1873 Bishop Stephen Ryan ordained him and the following day Rev. Pitass celebrated his first mass in St.Michael's Church with the Polish people of the St. Stanislaus Society attending. Later that day he met with them and with eighty-two charter members, organized the parish of St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr.
Prior to the establishment of the parish, Joseph Bork, a local real estate developer had secured a large quantity of land in the present Broadway/Fillmore area. Knowing from previous experience the impact a religious institution can have on the development of an area, he had deeded land on Peckham Street to the diocese with the hope that it would assign a priest and establish a parish there. Upon founding the parish of St. Stanislaus, the diocese presented the land to Rev. Pitass. On 24 August, 1873. he placed the cornerstone for the first house of worship. Dedicated on 25 January, 1874 the simple frame building served as the spiritual and secular center of an ever growing Polish community.
The influx of Poles into Buffalo steadily climbed. By 1880 almost 300 Polish families worshiped at St. Stan's. Seeing no end to the development of the neighborhood, and with the congregation already having outgrown their first worship, Rev. Pitass began planning for the construction of the current building. Ground breaking occurred on 10 August, 1882 and the cornerstone was placed on 20 May, 1883.
On 30 September, 1883 the congregation began worshiping in the completed basement hall in the church. On 17 October, 1886 they dedicated their completed house of worship. At this time, the twin 217 foot towers had not been constructed. Built at a cost of $100,000, members of the congregation financed the entire cost of the building through volunteer contributions.
Known as the Mother Church of Polonia, six Polish congregations have formed from it:
1887 - St. Adalbert's on Stanislaus,
1890 - St. John Kanty on Broadway,
1893 - Transfiguration on Sycamore,
1898 - Corpus Christi on Clark,
1908 - St. Luke's on Sycamore and
1913 - Queen of the Most Holy Rosary on Sycamore.
© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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