New Cathedral - Table of Contents

Illustrated History - New Cathedral
St. Joseph's Roman Catholic New Cathedral
1013 Delaware Avenue at West Utica, Buffalo, NY

Text by Edward T. Dunn






Gothic Revival


Aristides Leonori of Rome


Linwood Preservation District

St. Joseph's (Old) Cathedral 50 Franklin St.
1851-55; Patrick Keeley, architect
Bishop's Residence - See Bishop Colton's residence below
1033(?)  Delaware Avenue
Ryan: 2nd bishop of Buffalo
Moved 200' for Cathedral
Blessed Sacrament Chapel 1029 Delaware Avenue
1887; Albert A Post, architect
1909 moved 300' [200'?]  for Cathedral and enlarged
Knox House 1035 Delaware Avenue
1904; E E Joralemon of Niag Falls, NY, architect
St. Joseph's New Cathedral 1013 Delaware Avenue at West Utica
1912-15; Aristides Leonori of Rome, architect
Demolished: 1976

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

Grantors of properties for the new cathedral and bishop's residence

Episcopal residence of Rt. Rev. Charles H. Colton, D.D. / Transferred over 200 feet to accommodate the site for The New St. Joseph's Cathedral

Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Moved 300 (sic?) feet to make room for the New St. Joseph's Cathedral. Note unfinished
transept addition

Bishop Colton's Residence and Chapel /
Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Bishop Colton

Bishop Ryan's new residence and chapel on Delaware Avenue (demolished) /
Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Postcard - Bishop Colton's Residence and Chapel

New Cathedral

New Cathedral

New Cathedral

New Cathedral



Cross salvaged from St. Joseph's New Cathedral (demolished).

New Cathedral





North side view

Rear view

High altar

Bishop's throne

View showing the beautiful details of the magnificent interior

The pulpit




Station of the Cross

Station of the Cross

The massive sanctuary lamp

One of the side altars

First altar blessed by Bishop Colton

View taken inside sanctuary railing

Sarcophagus in which lies the body of Bishop Colton - Gospel side of High Altar (rear) -- later moved to Saint Joseph's on Franklin Street

The excerpts below are reprinted from
Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families,
by Edward T. Dunn. Pub. by
Canisius College Press, 2003

In the winter of 1886-1887 when Bishop Stephen V. Ryan was on vacation in California. The episcopal residence on Franklin was now directly across from the Terrace Station as well as surrounded by factories. With him away, the diocese purchased the Morehouse-Ralph house [#1025 Delaware Avenue, the second house from the northeast corner of Utica] and replaced it with an episcopal palace [see 2nd photo above] pleasing to tastes of the mauve decade but to later eyes a grotesque conflation of Gothic and Queen Anne.

In a corner of the plot the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament was built with Rev. James McGloin in charge. The idea was that this would become a regular parish church.

Some laymen suggested selling the cathedral site [on Franklin Street] for development and constructing a new cathedral elsewhere. Bishop Ryan took no steps toward a new cathedral.

His successor, James Edward Quigley (1897-1903), acquired the [northeast corner] Newman property at #1013 in 1902.

Next resident of #1013 Delaware was Bishop Charles Henry Colton (1903-1915).

Now under Colton, McGloin felt surer of himself, announcing in late 1906 the arrival of plans from Rome for a $500,000 cathedral ($8,715,000 in 1997 dollars) seating 1,500 people. In January 1907 the Express reported that some priests were objecting to "a cathedral on that corner," saying that it would be "a large and costly structure and there may not be a congregation large enough to support it."

Trimming his sails, McGloin said that "there will be no cathedral church at least for the present." A year later, however, a huge parade of 25,000 marched up Delaware from Niagara Square to Utica Street where a vast throng, not seen in Buffalo since the sound money march of 1896, heard a speech about the future cathedral by John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

The Delaware-Utica site was enlarged next year when the diocese purchased the home of the late Cicero Hamlin at #1035 Delaware [third house from the corner] from his widow Susan for $70,000. [NOTE: Today, the former Knox House -- #1045 on the map above -- is listed as #1035.]

Enough land had been assembled to accommodate the cathedral and the bishop's mansion. The planned dimensions of the cathedral were such as to make more space necessary. Accordingly, Bishop Colton's house was moved north 200 feet onto the former Cicero Hamlin place at #1035.

The Bishop continued to dwell in the Delaware Avenue house until the Spring of 1922 when the magnificent Knox home, adjoining his property, was purchased for an episcopal residence. After a visit to Rome, Bishop Turner moved into his new house in September 1922.

The New Cathedral

Historic day

For the great parade that took place on June 9, 1912, prior to the laying of the cornerstone of the new cathedral, more than thirty thousand marchers gathered in the vicinity of Niagara Square. These were supplemented by other thousands that formed a lane of humanity all the way from the Square to West Utica street, a distance of something more than two miles.

Meanwhile the cornerstone of the new cathedral had been laid on June 9, 1912. It was to be dominated by two towers, each 260 feet high, the width across the nave was to be 100 feet, and through the transepts 150 feet. The designer was Aristides Leonori of Rome, an architect of much experience and of great sympathy and the spirit of fine ecclesiastical architecture. His knowledge of the destructive power of Buffalo winters was less profound.

The forty-five bell carillon

In Colton's vision one of the glories of the cathedral, placed on a promontory higher than almost anywhere else in the city, was the forty-five bell carillon which Bishop Timon had purchased at the Paris Exposition in 1855, sparing nothing to make his cathedral a magnificent setting for the splendors of the Roman liturgy to be performed within, which would impress non-Catholics. The huge carillon would do the same thing for those outside.

The largest bell was 4,000 lbs., the smallest twenty-five. The whole cost $25,000 ($435,000 in 1997 dollars). It was the largest carillon in America at the time.

Unfortunately, only one of Timon's twin bell towers was completed. Structural problems militated against a second. The carillon was consecrated early in Bishop Ryan's time and installed in the single tower, but the arrangement proved unwieldy, and the bells were removed and stored against a better day.

Colton saw the triumphal twin 260-foot towers at Delaware and Utica as proclaiming the message on Sundays and feast days to the surrounding city. Unfortunately, when the bells were installed and rung once or twice it became clear that they had to be removed since their percussions endangered the safety of the towers.

The bells were stored in the basement and the towers razed. Bob Ripley's syndicated feature "Believe It or Not" described this cathedral with its belfry in the basement. One by one the bells were stolen, so that when Rev. Paul Juenker was made rector and checked out the basement he discovered that only four had survived. The largest ended up in Forest Lawn where it reposes today near the Delaware Avenue gate.

Bishop Colton dies

Just before the work was finished, Bishop Colton died on May 5, 1915. Nonetheless his funeral was held there and his body laid to rest in a marble sarcophagus in the sanctuary [see photo above].

Bishop Joseph A. Burke was reminiscent of that of Stephen Ryan who found that the trains on the Central kept him awake and moved up-town. Burke became bishop in 1952 and found the traffic on the Avenue too noisy. So he retreated to the tasteful ex-Forman mansion on Oakland Place.

Two entrepreneurs failed to make a go of #1049 [Burke's house] as a luxury office building, sisters at Cathedral School lived there, and finally it became the rectory for the clergy of Blessed Sacrament.


Meanwhile the cathedral was deteriorating alarmingly. Five years after it opened major repairs were needed. North and south transepts had been rebuilt in 1924-1925 at a cost of over $100,000 m ($1,143,000 in 1997 dollars.)

The twin steeples were removed in 1927-1928 at a cost of $72,000, and other repairs over the years totaled about $700,000, (over $12 million in 1997 dollars.) Large chunks of ceiling plaster had begun to fall, and several sections of pews had to be roped off.

The exterior marble facing had not been properly bonded to the brick wall behind it, and gradually pulled away from it, causing in places a gap of several inches.

Bishop Edward D. Head said that the cathedral was the "victim of bad design or bad construction." Miss Kathryn Summers, daughter of a general contractor for the cathedral, recalled, "I remember the heartache my father had about the unwarranted complaints about the cathedral. He maintained until his last day that it wasn't his fault; that he built to specifications." She blamed the Roman architect.

Bishop Head appointed a large committee of pastors of major churches in the diocese and successful contractors and businessmen both Catholic and non-Catholic so that the decision to raze the monster would not be seen as his alone. After an eight-month study it was found that it would cost more than $2.2 million to restore the building, that annual maintenance would be about $30,000, and that the cost of a new cathedral would be even more prohibitive. The building, whose long-time deterioration caused its builder "a lifetime of heartache," was razed, and its furnishings were sold by the wreckers in partial payment for the $250,000 the job was estimated to cost.

Bishop Colton's remains were reentombed at Saint Joseph's on Franklin Street. On his original tomb was an inscription which had cited the cathedral as "his crowning glory."

On the site was erected an apartment complex, Timon Towers.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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