St. John's-Grace Episcopal Church - Table of Contents

History - St. John's-Grace Episcopal Church

Grace Episcopal Church and St. John's Episcopal Church merged in February 1972.
Below the illustrations is a brief history of each church.

Grace Episcopal Church


Grace Church
C. 1827 Union Meeting House (the Breckenridge Street Presbyterian Church)
Illustration source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912




Grace Church:   2002 photo of same building in the previous illustration.



Grace Church:  Church at Lafayette and Congress   ...   2002 photo



Grace Church

  • C. 1827 Union Meeting House

    Grace had its earliest beginnings, circa 1827, with Presbyterians and Baptists who worshiped together in the Union Meeting House, at the end of Breckenridge.

  • 1845 Church

    By 1845, Grace was formalized as an Episcopal parish. Its first church was built at Penfield and Niagara.

  • Church at Lafayette and Congress

    Grace's second and last building at Lafayette and Congress, in 2002 the Pentecostal Church.





St. John's:  1848 church at Swan and Washington Streets
Caption: A bit of picturesque Buffalo in 1870. One of C. L. Pond's views from the spire of St. pail's, looking southeast, showing St. John's and Washington Street Baptist Churches.
Illustration source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912, p. 123



Caption: St. John's Episcopal Church. Built 1846-48, taken down 1906. Site now covered by Statler's Hotel.   ...
Note: Statler's Hotel was the first Statler Hotel, a fine, cream terra cotta structure. This building afterwards became the Hotel Buffalo when the new Statler went up on Niagara Square and Delaware. The first hotel is presently the site of Dunn Park baseball stadium   ...  
Illustration source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912, p. 124.



Caption: The passing of Old St. John's Tower of the Federal Building seen through [in 2002, ECC] a great broken window. From a photograph made in March, 1906.   ...   Note: The building was razed in 1906 to make way for the first Statler Hotel.   ...   Illustration source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912, p. 124


St. John's Episcopal Church

  • The 1848 Church at Swan and Washington Streets

St. John's Episcopal Church was founded in 1845. Episcopalians had outgrown the two existing churches, St. Paul's and Trinity; thus, St. John's was the third oldest Episcopal congregation in Buffalo.

Organized in 1845, the original St. John's was built 1846-48 on land donated by Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company for religious purposes. Apparently the St. John's congregation and the Episcopal Church won a legal dispute as to whether the land could be sold for commercial purposes.

The church was built of local, quarried from the Granger Quarry, as it was then known, now a part of Delaware Park.

The founding committee included Mayor (later Buffalo Superior Court Judge ) Joseph Masten, Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo, and William Bird (Bird Avenue takes its name from the family).

The Building Committee selected a lot at the southwest corner of Swan and Washington Streets at a cost of $8,000. To help finance the construction, a diagram was made of the floor space of the Church, marking out the pews. A value was put on these pews ranging from $50 to $500, and then they were sold at auction to the highest bidder. Over $16,000 was thus realized before ground had been broken for the foundation. Owners of pews thereafter were to pay an annual tax according to that assessed value of the pew for the current expenses of the Church. At first this tax was l0%, but as the years passed, it got as high as 25%. This was a clever device and was commonly used in financing church buildings.

In 1846, when the building was completed, the church claimed to be the widest church in the US whose roof was unsupported by pillars.

The West Window given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis G. Northrup by Mr. and Mrs. Seymour H. Knox.

On July 4, 1868, a fireworks rocket lodged in the woodwork between the four stone columns of the tower started a fire that destroyed most of the church. The church was rebuilt.

In the 1880s, this church was called "Free St. John's" because the congregation eliminated traditional pew rents and relied on voluntary pledges as their source of income.

When the congregation erected a new church in 1893 on Colonial Circle, the earlier building was sold. Later, in 1906, it was demolished to make way for the first Statler Hotel, a fine, cream terra cotta structure. This building afterwards became the Hotel Buffalo when the new Statler went up on Niagara Square and Delaware on the site of the Millard Fillmore residence.

The southeast corner of Swan and Washington, the location of the 1848 church is now occupied by the baseball stadium.

  • The 1927 Chapel at 51 Colonial Circle

In 1892, James H Marling designed a church and chapel for St. John's; the chapel was completed the following year, but his church design was never executed. The chapel was built of Indiana limestone with a seating capacity of about 200, and a mortgage of $4,000. In 1893 the parish moved to 51 Colonial Circle

In 1907 the chapel was enlarged.

Today the original chapel, intact, is used as a storage room; the enlarged chapel has a dropped ceiling and is used as a meeting room with stage.


Sources:

  • "St. John's Church, Buffalo 1845-1945: A Sketch," by the Reverend Walter Russel Lord, Doctor in Divinity

  • "Church Tales of the Niagara Frontier : Legends, History & Architecture," by Austin M. Fox, et. al. Pub. by Western New York Wares,  1994

  • Victorian Buffalo, by Cynthia Van Ness

  • Martin Wachadlo, consultant


Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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