Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
Delaware Avenue Baptist Church - 1894-1895
965 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY
Architect: John H. Coxhead
Founded: 13 September, 1874
Delaware Avenue Baptist Church - Table of Contents
Olivet Chapel, Delaware near North
The roots of the Delaware Avenue Baptist Church can be traced to the Olivet Chapel, a Sunday School organized in 1874 to serve residents of the North Street area. Membership consisted primarily of former members of the Washington Street Baptist Church or First Baptist Church who had since moved from downtown. At that time, a small brick carpenter's shop on Delaware near North was acquired and converted for use as a school. On 13 September, 1874, Rev. Hotchkiss, pastor of the Washington Street Baptist Church, preached the first sermon in the chapel. On January 29, 1875, members held a meeting to organize the Olivet Baptist Mission as a church society, or legal holder of property.
Olivet Baptist Church, Delaware near North (later Twentieth Century Club)
Within two years, attendance at services increased to the point that it became necessary to enlarge the chapel. With the start of construction in June, 1882, a movement began amongst the members to establish themselves as an independent congregation. On 1 December, 1882, seventy-six charter members formed the Olivet Baptist Church. Forty-nine were from the Washington Street Church, fourteen from the Cedar Street Church (destroyed) and three were from the Prospect Avenue Church.
Name change: Delaware Avenue Baptist Church
On 15 February, 1883, the congregation dedicated the completed chapel. Constructed at a cost of $30.000, it sat 400 on the main floor and 100 more in a rear gallery. With the first formal communion services on 4 March, 1883, the congregation became known as the Delaware Avenue Baptist Church and with the dedication of their new place of worship, the congregation began a period of unprecedented growth.
In 1892, seeking to construct a larger house of worship, they acquired property on North at Park Street at a cost of $26,000. Members of the congregation questioned the location of the property and voted, in 1883, to exchange it for the current site on the east side of Delaware north of Bryant. This site had been purchased earlier by Mr. Eric L. Hedstrom with the hopes that a Baptist church would one day be erected thereon.
The congregation broke ground for the building in the spring of 1884 and by the fall of the year they had sold their former church for $30,000 to the Twentieth Century Club. It has been mentioned that the auditorium of the former church now forms the core of that building but efforts have failed to substantiate these claims.
During the winter of 1894-1895, being without a building, they began holding Sunday morning services in the original Temple Beth Zion (destroyed) which was next to their original house of worship. They conducted their evening services in the Universalist Church of Our Father on North at Mariner Street (destroyed).
On 11 September, 1894 they placed the cornerstone of the building and on 30 January of the following year, with the rear portion containing a chapel completed, they began holding services there. They dedicated the auditorium of the $122,500 building during a week of ceremonies beginning on 15 December, 1895.
The building, designed by the architect, and member of congregation, John H. Coxhead, is in the Richardson Romanesque style. The graceful arches of the Delaware Avenue facade lead to the vaulted auditorium crowned with an art glass dome. The Neoclassical detailing of the auditorium is supplemented by some of the finest mosaics in the city. Those of the pulpit platform contain over one million pieces of tile alone.