St. Andrew's Episcopal Church - Table of Contents .................... University Heights - Table of Contents

National Register Nomination - Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church
3107 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church - Official Website

On this page, below:
Narrative Description of Property
History of the Parish and Church Building
The Architecture of the Church of St. Andrew’s
St. Andrew’s Dedication: Charles Henry Brent
Robert North (1880- 1968), principle architect of the church
Narrative Description of Property

Located in the City of Buffalo and completed in 1928, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is an early-twentieth-century Neo-Gothic stone church building designed to accommodate two hundred people.  The parcel includes an adjacent 1910 concrete block Queen Anne style house, which has served as the church’s rectory since the church’s construction.  A concrete block garage is located behind the rectory and a grave/ monument is located adjacent to the church, both contributing to the complex.  

Sited on the commercial thoroughfare Main Street in the University Heights neighborhood of North Buffalo, the areas around St. Andrew’s is predominately residential and developed in the first decades of the twentieth century as the city expanded outward from the downtown core.   The then private University of Buffalo built its new campus here, further the growth of North Buffalo.  Main Street, a major east-west route through the city, in the immediate vicinity of the church presents a typical older urban streetscape composed primarily of two-story commercial buildings housing small businesses and restaurants.  The streets running off Main Street in the immediate vicinity of St. Andrew’s are lined with modest single and double family frame and brick dwellings.  Many of residents in the area are students from the nearby University at Buffalo (now part of the SUNY system), South Campus, located about a quarter of a mile further north on Main Street.  St. Andrew’s, which is distinguished by a large Perpendicular Gothic style window overlooking Main Street, is one of three imposing churches built in the 1920s within a quarter mile of each other along this stretch of Main Street.  The other two are Gothic style St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (1925, Duane Lyman, architect) and Colonial Revival style University Presbyterian Church (1927, North and Shelgren, architects).

The church is constructed of a local cream colored stone, which, according to the architects’ spefications, was to be “of large size, laid on its natural bed in a heavy bed of mortar and hammered into place.”  Indiana Limestone was used for trim elements.  The church is a built in the form of long rectangular block and is covered by a simple saddleback roof, the axis of which runs east and west, nearly perpendicular to Main Street, the thoroughfare the church faces.  Twin gabled transept-like bays rise to the ridge line on either side of the building near the back.  The general symmetry of the facade, which features a large window with stone tracery above a basement level, is relieved by a single-story stone entrance porch attached to the south side of the building.  A narrow, polygonal tower rises above the porch at its juncture with the porch and terminates at the baseline of the roof.


West (principal) Elevation-
St. Andrew’s is a Neo-Gothic church constructed of a cream and gray colored stone with a red ceramic tile roof (Fig. 1).  The main elevation of the church looks westward and faces Main Street.  The walls of this principal elevation are laid in random ashlar with thick mortar joints with trim around openings done in finished Indiana limestone.  The chief element of the gabled west façade is a tall, centrally placed leaded glass window framed by two angled buttresses.  The Indiana limestone tracery of this window reflects the Perpendicular Style of 15th-century English Gothic.  This window, which is filled with clear glass (described by the architects as “double thick American glass”) with three small stained glass inserts near the center, lights the back of the nave and the choir loft.  It stands above a high stone base (this is the west wall of the interior narthex and has a small rectangular window near ground level) and is sheltered beneath a large molded pointed arch. A small, polygonal tower rises along side the south buttress (Fig. 3).  The main entrance to the church is from Main Street through a pointed arch portal (the wooden door is painted red) in a stone porch attached to the south side of the west elevation.  A niche for a statue of St. Andrew is located on the main body of the church just above the doorway in the recessed angle between the tower and southern angled buttress.

South & North Elevation
The south elevation is two stories tall beneath the broad slopping red tile roof (Fig. 4).  Pairs of lancet windows light the nave along the upper level and simpler rectangular windows at ground level provide light for the basement.  The side walls constructed are of rubble—random-sized, unfinished stones of Buffalo gray limestone--laid with thick mortar joints.  At the east end of the nave there is a two story gabled stone projection that resembles a transept.  In the gable of this section there is visible the outlines of a window now filled in with stone.  Beyond this false transept is the area of the chancel and vestry rooms.  A low, flat roofed wing projects from the church on the south side of the chancel.  On the west side of this rear wing, a secondary entrance leads to a staircase giving access to the basement, columbarium, and rooms behind the chancel.  A large glass block window in the south wall of the second level of this wing lights the interior stair landing.  This back wing is covered with stucco painted white. 

A few feet from the south elevation on Main Street is the rectory building.  Behind the rectory is a small concrete block garage erected in 1912.  The remaining space on the south side is given over to a fenced asphalt parking lot that has its entrance on Lisbon Avenue.  (Land formerly owned by the church on Main Street between the rectory and Lisbon Avenue is now occupied by a recently constructed building housing a physical therapy facility.)

The north elevation, which is very close to the adjacent red brick building (a former residence now used as a business) substantially repeats that of the south elevation.  There is, however, no entrance on this side of the church.

East Elevation-
The rear of the church consists of the one-story rectangular wing projecting from the main body of the church and housing the columbarium, Lady Chapel, and vestry rooms and the flat end wall of the chancel, with its three lancet windows, rising above.  The ground floor wing is covered with smooth stucco painted white; the walls of the chancel continue the rubble stone construction of the rest of the church. The property line here is a few feet from the church and defined by a tall wooden fence.

One enters the church from the south porch ascending a flight of steps to a spacious narthex.  Another flight of steps leads to the basement.  This narthex (or vestibule) doubles as a Baptistery with a small stone Baptismal font located on the north wall beneath a small window.  From the narthex one enters the nave beneath the stained oak choir loft (all interior woodwork trim is of oak), which is reached by a stairway in the southwest corner of the narthex.

The nave is five bays long with two narrow side aisles and a tall timber framed ceiling (Fig. 5).  The open timber ceiling of Douglas Fir members, which are stained a dark natural color, is supported by an arcade of tall pointed arches resting on simple cylindrical piers of Indian limestone.  Pairs of lancet windows filled with patterned   opaque leaded glass open in the side walls between each pier to light the interior, the walls of which are painted white.  (The original architects’ specifications called for “all windows and doors and screens shown or specified glazed to have leaded glass.”  Unfortunately, the manufacturer of this high quality uncolored glass is unknown. The windows in the Lady Chapel and the window in the west wall of the nave have small stained glass medallions set into them depicting religious emblems, such as a chalice, ship, and lamb. Illustrations of these windows can be viewed at A free standing oak pulpit stands at the north side (so-called Gospel side) of the nave immediately in front of the chancel.

The nave terminates in the east in the chancel or sanctuary, which is the same height as the nave but slightly narrower.  It is raised three steps above the nave and contains the high altar at the east end beneath three lancet windows.  These windows are filled with stained glass figures representing Christ (center), St. Andrew (south) and St. Peter (north).  In the south wall of the chancel near the east wall are two small lancet windows with figures in stained glass of Bishop Charles Henry Brent (west), to whom the church is dedicated (the dates 1921-1927, the years of construction, appear beneath his feet), and St. Catherine of Siena (east).  Beneath these two windows is a recessed stone piscina or basin for the ritual washing of hands.  (Illustrations of these windaows can be viewed at  To the west of these pair of windows, on the second level of the chancel wall, is a large organ loft framed by a large pointed arch.  A similar organ pipe chamber is across the chancel in the north wall as are two lancet widows that correspond to those in the south wall.  These windows have the figures of Charles I (east) and Huntington (west).  In the north wall, near a doorway leading to a robbing room behind Holy Family Chapel, is an ambry or locked cupboard for storing sacred objects.  Unfortunately. No documentation could be found identifying the maker of these stained glass windows.  However, they appear to date from the time of the remodeling of the chancel in 1952-1953.  They may have come from the New York studio of Leslie H. Nobbs (d. 1967), an ecclesiastical artist who was responsible for sculptures and carvings on he new high altar added to the church in the 1950s.

At the entrance to the chancel is a life-side wooden (unpainted) Crucifixion group (Christ on the cross mourned by Mary below on his right and St. John the Divine below on his left) suspended by two chains from the ceiling and facing the nave.  A polychrome representation of Christ on the cross by sculptor Leslie H. Nobbs of New York hangs on the end wall of the chancel above the marble topped carved wooden altar table.  Below this group seven, symmetrically disposed brass lamps hang suspended from the wooden ceiling.  (Like the Crucifixion group, these lamps came from the former church of St. Andrew.)  Three other small polychrome statues (by Nobbs) of Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus stand on a table in the Holy Family Chapel (which was dedicated on May 17, 1958.)  The walls of the nave bear, between each window, scenes from the death of Jesus known as the Stations of the Cross.  The series of oil paintings on copper were installed in 1931 (with frames designed by Robert North) and are copies of images by the nineteenth-century German Nazarene artist, Martin von Feuerstein (1856-1931).

The north aisle terminates in the east end in a small chapel originally dedicated to St. Michael and now dedicated to the Holy Family.  This space is labeled Chapel B on the architects’ plans (Fig.6).  Like Chapel A (see below), this space, according to the architects’ specifications, was “to have adze hewn beams and rough sawed ceiling boards 7/8” x 6” matched boards, all to be Douglas Fir.”    The south aisle is joined to a passageway leading to the rooms behind the chancel and to a stairway to the basement.

Behind the chancel, a series of rooms open on the east side of a north-south hall.  These are an acolytes’ room on the north, the sacristy for storing vestments and other items used in services in the center, and a Lady Chapel (Chapel A) on the south.  This latter room, traditionally found in Gothic churches behind the high altar, was dedicated to St. Mary.  At St. Andrew’s, because it was more easily heated than the main church, the small Lady Chapel was intended for use during weekday services.  A columbarium added in 1979 is located on the south side of the Lady Chapel and occupies the space of the former chapel sanctuary.

The basement or crypt of the church, which was intended to serve as the Parish House, extends under the entire church.  It contains a large social hall with stage on the west, a guild room, dining room, and kitchen in the center, and boiler room and related utility spaces on the east.

The rectory is a squarish, late Queen Anne style house built of tan-colored concrete blocks cast to resemble rusticated ashlar masonry.  The southwest corner is developed as a two-story curved bay, an element that is repeated at the southeast corner.  The building is covered with a pyramidal, asphalt-shingled roof and has a wooden porch supported by simple wooden piers at the principal entrance on Main Street. 

The interior of the rectory has rooms grouped on either side of a central hall that runs from the entrance vestibule to a spacious kitchen area at the rear of the house.  There is a rear entrance into the kitchen area that is aligned with the front door.  To the right of the entrance (south side of the building) is a large living room with a fireplace in the center of the south wall.  Adjacent to the living room on the south side of the house is the former dining room which is now used as the parish office.  The staircase to the four second floor bedrooms opens to the north (left upon entering) the main hall and is located behind a former parlor or study that is placed immediately to the left of the vestibule.  This room has been converted into a modern bathroom.

The rectory, which is no longer inhabited by the rector, retains most of its interior and exterior detailing and its character as an example of late nineteenth-century domestic architecture.  Despite being empty most of the time, the rectory is adequately maintained and in good condition. 

Behind the rectory is a small garage built of the same material as the rectory and covered by a dark asphalt-shingled pyramidal roof.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church has been an important site of Episcopalian worship in the city of Buffalo since its completion in 1927.  Consisting of the church, rectory, and garage, the complex meets Criterion C in the area of Architecture for its fine examples of Late-Gothic Revival and Queen Anne architecture. 

Maintaining a strong level of architectural integrity, the buildings are additionally significant as representative examples of the work of regional craftsmen and architects, particularly architect Robert North, who was responsible for the design of the church.  North enjoyed a career in the region that would define him as one of the city’s most successful architects of the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in the area of ecclesiastic design. 

The church and its associated buildings are additionally significant under Criterion A in the area of Social History for their association with the early-Twentieth Century development of the Western New York Episcopal diocese, which, at the time of the buildings’ construction, was under the guidance and restructuring of noted writer and scholar Bishop Charles Henry Brent

A period of significance has been set from 1910, the date of the rectory’s construction, to 1954, which marks the last contributing alterations to the church’s interior. 
History of the Parish and Church Building

    Buffalo’s St. Andrews Episcopal Church was erected from 1921 to 1927 on the outskirts of the city near the new University of Buffalo campus.  In this “rapidly growing section of the city,” observed a contemporary churchman, “the future seems very bright for the parish.”   The congregation’s roots in Buffalo begin in the city’s German immigrant quarter, where in 1873 the Episcopal diocese founded a German language Sunday school above a popular saloon.  Two years later, the nascent congregation moved to a small wooden chapel building on Spruce Street and adopted the name St. Paul’s Free Chapel. (It was also commonly known as the German Mission of St. Paul’s Parish.)  In 1884, the chapel closed for want of a priest but, two years later, with financial aid from the recently established local chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew (an organization devoted to bringing more men and boys into the Episcopal faith), it reopened as the mission church of St. Andrew’s. 

        The parish grew and prospered and in 1891, Bishop A. Cleveland Coxe elevated it to a full-fledged parish of the diocese.  One of the first vestrymen was Harlow Curtiss, a local real estate developer who erected the Curtiss Building [1912, NR listed 2008] in downtown Buffalo.  The following year, St. Andrew’s erected an unpretentious Gothic style brick church (now demolished) to the designs of local architect William. H. Boughton at 160 Goodell Street near Michigan Avenue.  The architect enjoyed the favor of the rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral (1849, NR listed 1972, NHL 1987), the Rev. Henry A. Adams, for whom Boughton designed a home on Buffalo’s exclusive Oakland Place.  The Michigan Avenue church was enlarged in 1897 by a chancel with brick rude screen (Boughton & Johnson), and a half-timbered parish house was added in 1903 (Esenwein & Johnson).  The congregation, which observed High Church worship, continued to worship at this location until 1921.

By 1921, the German speaking population in the area had begun to be replaced by African American residents, and the congregation of St. Andrew’s decided to move to a new location.  On June 17 the bishop, Charles Henry Brent spoke to the vestry in favor of a new site in North Buffalo.  Following the meeting with the bishop, the congregation purchased a vacant lot and adjoining house at 3111 Main Street for $6000.  By the beginning of August, the vestry had approved plans for a new church prepared by hometown architect Frank Spangenberg.  Soon after, however, the rector, the Rev. Harrison F. Rockwell, informed them that Bishop Brent, had declined to give his approval to Spangenberg’s scheme (now lost).  Instead, Brent, a committed Anglo-Catholic, had given his blessing to plans drawn by another local architect, Robert North.  Brent, who was supported in his decision by Mrs. Sarah Cook Montague, a wealthy benefactor of the parish from Youngstown, New York, suggested that the vestry accept his judgment.  This they did at a meeting on August 15th when North came to explain his design to the building committee.  Also at the recommendation of Bishop Brent, the Goodell Street church was transferred to St. Phillip’s, a parish founded in 1861 as the city’s sole African American Episcopal congregation.  

Construction of the New Church
        Construction of the new St. Andrew’s church at 3105 Main Street probably began in the spring of 1922, for the earliest sets of plans and specifications from North, Shelgren & Swift (Robert North’s firm) dating from October and November 1921.  During this period the congregation worshipped at Christ Chapel, Trinity Church, on Delaware Avenue (NR Listed).  The rector resided at Trinity until 1925, until he moved into the house adjacent to the church site that the congregation purchased for the rectory, which came to be known as St. Andrew’s House.  (This dwelling was erected c. 1910 by Charles Rossler, a local building contractor.)  

        On the second Sunday of September 1922, parishioners worshipped for the first time in the completed crypt (basement) of the new edifice.   By 1925, Mrs. Montague had made good on her promised assistance and had given $50,000 to the building committee.  Moreover, the congregation, “all of whom are people of moderate means,” had decided to make the church a “thank offering” for the life and work of Bishop Brent.  In consequence of this, appeals went out “to his friends throughout the country to contribute to the success of the plan.”   Sheets of working drawings (bearing the revised firm name of North, Shelgren & Whitman) dating from April and May 1927 indicate that the final phase of construction of St. Andrew’s was getting underway at that time.  On June 10, 1927, Bishop Brent, vested in cope and miter, laid the cornerstone at an impressive ceremony.  A local newspaper described a solemn procession of “acolytes, members of the church choir, [and] assisting rectors from Buffalo parishes . . .  who recited the vesicles and responses.”   As the celebrants processed from the rectory to the church site, Robert North joined them in singing “Thy Hand, O God, Hast Guided, They Church from Age to Age.”  The building he designed, which the local religious press predicted would be “one of the most beautiful churches in Buffalo,” was completed by the early days of 1928 and consecrated on April 15th of that year.   In addition to honoring St. Andrew, one of the original twelve Apostles and patron saint of fishermen, the church, home of the only Anglo-Catholic congregation in the Western New York Episcopal diocese, the church was dedicated as a memorial to Bishop Charles Henry Brent.   Brent, who, unfortunately, was unable to attend the dedication rites because he was convalescing from an operation, had begun his ecclesiastic career as a young deacon at St. Andrew’s mission church.  By 1928, he enjoyed an international reputation as a foremost advocate of religious ecumenism and world peace.   

The church continued its relationship with the Robert North and his firm over the following decades.  In 1931, they asked the architect to design frames for a series of paintings on the theme of the Stations of the Cross (copies on copper of images by the German artist Martin von Feuerstein) which were installed along the side walls of the nave.  In 1953-1954, the successor firm of Shelgren & Whitman (with North as the principle, one assumes) designed changes to the chancel and the narthex ends of the interior that gave the interior the appearance it has today.  The least amount of changes took place in the chancel.  They included a new high altar (dedicated on November 9, 1954) and the removal of the original Wurlitzer organ console from its position on the south side.  (It was probably at this time, too, that the four stained glass windows were installed in the lancets in the north and south chancel walls.)  Changes to the narthex end were more extensive.  The stone baptismal font was moved from its original position at the rear of the south bank of pews and placed beneath the window in the north wall of the narthex.  A gallery was built above the narthex for the church choir, which formally sang in the chancel.  This choir gallery (reached by a staircase in the southwest corner of the narthex) also became the location of a new organ console and organ loft.  These alterations, which retained the handsome oak screen dividing the narthex from the nave, were undertaken in a manner consistent with the style of the original design of the church.

The Architecture of the Church of St. Andrew’s

        The architecture of St. Andrew’s had its origins in the Gothic Revival of the nineteenth century.  The English architect and interior designer, Augusts Welby Northumberland Pugin (1812-1852), is regarded as the motivating force behind this movement.  Through both his writings, notably Contrasts of 1837 and True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture of 1841, (the pointed arch was the hallmark of Gothic architecture as the round arch and marble column were of Classical and Renaissance architecture) and the example of his church designs, Pugin succeeded in identifying the Gothic style with Christianity.  Pugin convinced Catholic and Anglican congregations of the appropriateness of the Medieval style for modern churches, overturning the Classicism that had guided Christopher Wren and earlier generations of British church architects.  “Pugin offered a way forward,” states his most recent biographer, Rosemary Hill, “which was a way back.  He pointed to the Middle Ages as a model not just for architecture but for society, for a coherent, Christian order in which the poor would be fed, the old cared for, the children taught.”   Although Pugin converted to Catholicism because of his love for the Middle Ages, the influence of his thought was wide spread among progressive Anglican clergymen.  In this he was assisted, if not always congenially, by such groups as the Oxford Movement, the Cambridge Camden Society, and the Ecclesiological Society.  All of them held a common faith in the Medieval religious revival and helped make the church one of the most thought about building types in modern English architecture.

In America, Pugin’s “true principles” of Gothic design took root under the tutelage of Richard Upjohn, himself an English émigré and a devout member of the Episcopal church (the name adopted by the American branch of Anglicanism).  Upjohn’s Trinity Church in New York City (1846, NR/NHL Listed 1976), which the architect modeled upon one of Pugin’s churches, introduced the mature, “scholarly” Gothic style to the American ecclesiastical architecture.  Upjohn, who designed Buffalo’s St. Paul’s is known as the Father of the Gothic Revival in America. 

        On this side of the Atlantic, the movement found its strongest support among what were known as High Church or Anglo-Catholic congregations.  In addition to housing themselves in authentic looking evocations of the High Middle Ages—revered as the Age of Faith—High Church Episcopalians (often aided by the New York Ecclesiological Society) revived many of the liturgical practices that had fallen into disuse during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Now, elaborate and beautiful vestments, choral and organ music, bells and chimes, and stained glass, paintings, and statuary all enhanced the liturgy of sermonizing, gospel reading, and hymn singing that had earlier been the elements of Sunday services.  Major manifestations of the movement were the Cowley Fathers, the first Anglican monastic order founded since the Reformation.  The order’s chapter Boston, where Charles Henry Brent was a member in the 1880s, was especially well known, says historian Douglass Shand-Tucci, for “’Pugin-Medieval’ pageantry and ornament.”   During the last half of the nineteenth century, the discipline of ecclesiology—the analysis of liturgical practices and religious architecture based on Medieval precedents—occupied the attention of many Episcopal clergymen and their architects.  Appreciation of the letter and spirit of Medieval ecclesiastical architecture and decorative arts can be said to have reached a high point in the United States with the publication in 1873 of Frederick Clarke Withers’ Church Architecture, a copy of which was in the firm office of St. Andrew’s architect, Robert North. 
        Architects and churchmen believed that the more accurately they were able to recreate Gothic designs in their churches, the more potent would be the influence of these buildings on the piety of worshippers.  The favored model for late-nineteenth-century Episcopal church architects was the simple, thirteenth-century rural parish church in the so-called Early English style.  These buildings had simple lancet windows and framed wooden ceilings rather than the elaborate ribbed stone vaulting of larger Gothic churches.  Moreover, their often asymmetrical and their association with the rural landscape fit nicely with Romantic notions of the Picturesque.  Larger Catholic dioceses maintained the cathedral model, erecting such French-inspired, twin towered landmarks as James Renwick’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral (1858, NR & NHL 1987) in New York City and Patrick Keely’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral (1852) in Buffalo.  Eventually, many urban Episcopal bishoprics also undertook cathedral building, although these churches generally adhered to English Medieval models.  Other Protestant denominations followed the lead of the Episcopal church, so that by the 1880s, Gothic had become the style that most American Christians identified with houses of worship.

This movement enjoyed renewed enthusiasm in the early twentieth century due largely to the example of the Boston architect, Ralph Adams Cram.  Cram’s All Saints’, Ashmont, in Boston (1892, NR Listed 1980), done in collaboration with Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, launched him on a career that would have national influence.  In 1911, when Cram was chosen to complete the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, his position as the foremost church architect in America was assured.  In his work, Cram moved beyond the Early English style and popularized the Perpendicular style, the last phase of English Gothic that developed in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  This Perpendicular style was distinguished by walls composed almost entirely of tall clear glass windows.  Cram’s designs, sometimes referred to as Collegiate Gothic or Boston Gothic, were more streamlined and compact than medieval buildings.  Moreover, he was not adverse to mixing elements from different styles of Gothic and to adding features from French Gothic architecture, such as an elegant rooftop flèche (spire).  Nonetheless, Cram, who like Upjohn before him, was a devout Episcopalian, respected all periods of Medieval building and devoted himself to furthering the alliance between Gothic design and modern day Christianity, and especially with High Church liturgy. 

St. Andrew’s and the Modern Gothic Revival

        Bishop Charles Henry Brent, the man who proposed Robert North’s plans to the vestry of St. Andrew’s, was architect Ralph Adams Cram’s godfather and a close friend of the Rev. Henry Satterlee, Bishop of Washington, DC, who had undertaken to build the Washington National Cathedral (1907, NR Listed 1974).  This association goes a long way in explaining the appearance of St. Andrew’s.  One assumes that Bishop Brent would have specified that North, who’s St. James Episcopal Church (1906, NR listed 2004) in Batavia, New York, resembled Cram’s work, adhere to the letter and spirit of High Church ecclesiology.  North did so admirably, for St. Andrew’s is faithful to the “true principles” of Gothic church architecture, specifically the English parish church tradition.  The catalogue of elements includes the handsome wooden truss ceiling covering the nave—the area where the congregation sits (in June 1927, the vestry voted to install pews rather than chairs in the nave)—the arcades of pointed arches supported by cylindrical stone piers; the two lower side aisles; the small chapel at the end of the north aisle ; the lady chapel with secondary altar at the back of the church; numerous images, painted and carved; and the chancel (sanctuary at the end of the nave) reserved for celebrants and containing the high altar.

Indeed, from the time of Pugin and Upjohn, the deep chancel was the main feature that distinguished progressive Anglican and Episcopal Gothic Revival church architecture.  It was here that the main altar was housed and the liturgy performed.  (The pulpit, the locus of the homily, was located outside of the chancel. )  At St. Andrew’s, the chancel’s separateness from the nave is accentuated by its raised floor level (it is three steps above the nave, and the high altar is raised a platform another three steps above that), by a low railing, by its slightly narrower width, and by a life-sized Crucifixion group suspended from the chancel arch.   (This impressive sculpture, said to have been carved in Belgium,  came from the earlier church on Goodell Street, [where the figures stood on a rude beam]. The seven lamps hanging in the chancel also came from the first church. ) 

        The most striking feature of the interior, however, is the exposed timber ceiling that covers the nave and chancel.  Like the arresting Crucifixion group suspending from its rafters, the overarching system of timbers is both formidable and comforting.  Supported by ample curved braces resting on stone corbels, the unpainted ceiling calls to mind the contention of earlier Gothic Revival church architect Frederick Clarke Withers that “in truss roofs there is great room for display, and where properly designed there will be found no superfluous timbers, each portion having its own proper duty to perform, but at the same time cut and molded into such pleasing forms, that a sense of security as well as of beauty is imparted to the eye.”  

        Moreover, in the manner most Medieval churches, St. Andrew’s is correctly oriented.  This required that the altar be in the east and the church entrance in the west, a tradition that fathers of the early church adopted with the view to reversing the pagan custom of facing temples toward the rising sun.  Together with its Gothic “correctness,” Robert North and his firm’s Early English design for St. Andrew’s is enlivened by an element of dissidence that devotees of Gothic architecture such as Bishop Brent would have found agreeable.  In opposition to the chancel wall, with its three simple lancet windows, the west wall of St. Andrew’s consists nearly entirely of a large leaded glass window.  Such an expanse of glass--the tracery [stone ribs that hold the glass] here repeats the pattern popular in the late fourteenth century--is a feature found in churches from the subsequent Perpendicular period.  (King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, was a model popular with many Gothic revivalists.)  To those familiar with the annals of Medieval architecture (as Brent, North, and perhaps Mrs. Montague, were), this difference of period styles between the eastern and western ends of the church enhanced the sensation of olden times.  It fictively suggests that, as in the case of many authentic Gothic churches--which generally commenced being built in the east and finished in the west—that the construction of St. Andrew’s extended over a long interval of time.  Yet, for all of the respect it pays to ecclesiological custom, St. Andrew’s also reflects the more streamlined silhouette and compact massing of Cram’s modern Gothic churches.  And as Cram felt free to do, North, Shelgren & Swift took inspiration from French Gothic architecture when they proposed to enliven the roofline of St. Andrew’s with a flèche marking the chancel (Fig. 2).   St. Andrew’s was the first of several Episcopal churches that Robert North designed in Western New York, for his firm had recently become the official architects to the diocese.  Surely, he and his colleagues wished to make St. Andrew’s worthy of the trust Bishop Brent had placed in them.
St. Andrew’s Dedication: Charles Henry Brent (1862-1929), “the spokesman of the conscience of mankind.”
St. Andrew’s church is dedicated as a memorial to Charles Henry Brent, one of the leading religious figures of the twentieth century.  Brent enjoyed a reputation around the world for his efforts on behalf of Christian unity, religious tolerance, anti-narcotics trafficking, and world peace.  Brent was a native of Ontario, Canada, and became an Anglican priest in Toronto in 1887.  (Brent later became a naturalized American citizen.) That same year he was sent to Buffalo to St. Paul’s parish, the main church of the Episcopal diocese of Western New York.  In Buffalo, he was assigned as priest-in-charge of the newly established mission church of St. Andrew’s where he attempted to institute Anglo-Catholic practices.  When he was rebuked by the bishop for placing candles on the altar, Brent left his post and moved to Boston where he joined the so-called Cowley Fathers, the American chapter of the Anglican monastic order that traced its origins to the Oxford movement.  He later became rector of St. Stephen’s, a church, like St. Andrew’s mission, that was home to a poor, urban congregation.  During his time at St. Stephen’s, he became a spokesperson for the disadvantaged and an influential progressive voice within the Episcopal Church.  In 1899, because of his experiences in Boston’s South End, he published the first of many books, With God in the World.  In 1901, “because of his earnest simplicity, rugged strength and adaptability among people of other races,” Brent was named bishop of the Philippines.   He remained until 1917 building up the Episcopal Church and promoting social justice in that island nation that had become an American protectorate as a result of the Spanish-American War.

        While in Boston, Brent became part of a circle of earnest clergy and lay persons, including the art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, devoted to advancing liberal Anglo-Catholic theology and ritual.  He was especially close to Arthur Crawshay Hall, an English priest well known for preaching “the gospel of friendship.”  He also came to know the architects Henry Vaughan, a prominent High Church architect, and R. Clipston Sturgis, the designer of Father Hall’s St. Augustine’s Mission for Negroes on Beacon Hill.  Brent’s closest friend, however, was the young aspiring architect Ralph Adams Cram.  When, in 1889, Cram converted from Unitarianism to the Episcopal faith, Brent, who was less than a year older than Cram, served as his godfather.  The camaraderie that the youthful architect and priest shared as members of “Boston Bohemia,” as historian Douglass Shand-Tucci termed the city’s advanced intellectual scene of the 1880s and 1890s, must also have marked the beginning of Brent’s enduring interest in Medieval architecture and its modern reincarnation, especially in the work of Cram who would achieve national fame as an ecclesiastical designer.  Indeed, Shand-Tucci, traces the origins of Cram’s success to these early years: “one should not lose sight of the fact,” he writes, “that in the long run not a little of the most significant architecture of Cram’s later and most productive years derived from the associations Hall (in league with Vaughan and Clipston Sturgis) first opened to Cram.”  The circle of exceptional friends to which Cram and Brent belonged, observes Shand-Tucci, “’grew up’ and settled down (usually marrying).  But they did not forget the friends of their youth.”   Cram and Brent in particular shared life-long friendship, despite their distant life paths.  When Brent died in 1929, Cram affectionately furnished the design for his tombstone.

Between his time in Boston and his death in Switzerland, Bishop Brent had had an influential and illustrious career as a churchman on the international stage.  In 1901, he left Boston to become the bishop of the Philippines, a post he held for seventeen years.  His time there has been characterized as devoted to seeking cooperation among all religions, Christian and non-Christian alike.  In the Philippines, Brent built churches, hospitals, and schools, one of which, the Willard Straight Agricultural School, was run by Christians for Muslim students.  He also became deeply involved in attempts to eradicate narcotics trafficking, a prevalent social ill throughout Southeast Asia.  In 1903-1904, Brent was appointed chief United States commissioner to the first international opium commission.  He later became chair of the commission and president of the American delegation to the opium conference held at The Hague in 1911-1912. 

        In 1918, Brent accepted the bishopric of Western New York, having previously turned down offers to become bishop of Washington, DC, and New Jersey.  “Almost immediately the diocese was invigorated by his ability to inspire co-workers,” states his most recent biographer, who adds that “such foibles as his fast driving, or his frequent errors in overestimating other peoples’ capabilities, endeared him to his new diocese.”   While resident in Buffalo, Bishop Brent kept up a busy schedule of international travel and obligations.  “A profound student of international relations,” states one biographer, “he wielded a strong influence in practically every important question which concerned the foreign relations of the United States during the last decade of his life.”    Brent’s major interested as a churchman throughout his life was Christian unity—his book The Mount of Vision (1918) outlines his ecumenical views.  The culmination of his efforts in this regard was his presidency of the Faith and Order Conference that took place in Lausanne in 1927.  Out of this came the pan-Protestant movement that eventually resulted in the establishment of the World Council of Churches with headquarters in Geneva.  Despite his busy schedule, Brent managed to publish many books and articles and to lecture at the General Theological Seminary in New York, at Harvard, and elsewhere. Bishop Brent is listed in the Episcopal Church calendar of saints; his day of commemoration is March 27tht.

Robert North (1880- 1968), principle architect of the church

Senior partner Robert North (1882-1868) was born in Batavia, New York, and studied architecture at Cornell University.  During summer breaks, he worked in the office of Green & Wicks, Buffalo’s leading architectural firm at the turn of the twentieth century.  North’s first commission was for St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia, a parish in which he had been a chorister.  (In 2004, St. James, to which St. Andrew’s bears some resemblance, was listed in the National Register.)  To prepare this design, North undertook a tour of English Gothic churches.  The knowledge he gained from this study trip stood him in good stead for the rest of his life, and he opened his own office in Buffalo in 1907, and he became one of the city’s most successful architects of the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1919, he formed the partnership of North, Shelgren & Swift, with his longtime draftsman Olaf W. Shelgren, Sr. (1891-1972) and engineer Frank R. Swift (c.1879-c. 1949).  (In 1925, Swift withdrew from the firm, which then became North & Shelgren.)  Eclectic in taste, the firm planned a number of sophisticated traditionalist homes for members of Buffalo society.  Churches, too, formed a major part of the output of the North and his partners.  As many as fifty congregations became his clients.  For the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, the firm planned numerous buildings, including Saint Matthias Church (1927) in East Aurora where North himself worshipped.  The North office also worked for other denominations and designed the First Baptist Church and the East Avenue Congregational Church, both in Lockport, and the University Presbyterian Church in Buffalo.  Accomplished painters, Robert North and Olaf Shelgren exhibited with the Buffalo Society of Artists and through other local venues.  After North's retirement during World War II, the firm became Shelgren & Whitman, and continued under a variety of partners until Olaf W. Shelgren Jr. closed it in 1994.

“Altar Consecrated,” Buffalo Courier Express, November 10, 1954, 7.

“Area’s Only Anglo-Catholic Church Retaining Pre-Vatican II Roman Rite.” Buffalo Evening News, July 11, 1981, A6.

“Brent, Charles Henry.” The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White, 1937, Vol. 26, 482-483.

Brent, Charles H.  A Master Builder, Being the Life and Letters of Henry Yates Satterlee, First Bishop of Washington. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1916.

Burrows, G. Sherman.  The Diocese of Western New York, 1897-1931.  Buffalo: By the Diocese, 1935.

Christian Unity Seen Way to Lasting Peace,” Buffalo Courier-Express, June 4, 1949, 5.

“Cornerstone Laid at St. Andrew’s,” Buffalo News, June 11, 1927. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 50.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

“Crypt Opened for Service,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 1(December 1922), cover; 174.

“Here and There in the Diocese,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 1(October 1921), 20.

“Here and There in the Diocese,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 6(January 1926), cover; 119.

“History.”  An unsigned, handwritten account of the early years of St. Andrew’s in the first ten pages of the first parish records ledger. This volume is in possession of the church.

Humphrey, N. J. A. “Candlesticks and Catholicity,” sermon preached 20 April 2008 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and online at

“Interior View of St. Andrew’s Church, Main Street, near Lisbon,” Buffalo Times, April 16, 1928.  In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 50.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.  (The photograph shows how the chancel appeared prior to being remodeled in 1954.)

Kates, Frederick Ward, ed.  Things that Matter:  The Best of the Writings of Bishop Brent.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949

Kowsky, Francis R.  The Architecture of Frederick Clarke Withers and the Progress of the Gothic Revival in America after 1850.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1980.

“Lightening Hits Church Cross During Service,” Buffalo Courier Express, June 6, 1954, 52.

Lindsley, James Elliott. “Charles Henry Brent,” American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, Vol. 3, 481-483.

“Memorial Rood-beam.” Buffalo Courier, October 23, 1929? In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 52; 55.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

Napora, James. “Houses of Worship:  A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York.”  Masters thesis, University at Buffalo, 1989.  Online version:

“New Church to Honor Episcopalian Bishop Buffalo News, October 27, 1927. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 50.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

“New Memorial for St. Andrew’s Church, Buffalo,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 11(December 1931), 189.

“New St. Andrew’s Church Dedicated,” Buffalo News,”  April 15, 1929. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 54.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

Pixley, Dorothy. A Cycle of Praise, the History of St. James Church, 1815-1965.  Batavia, NY: By the Church, 1965.

“Religion: At Lausanne,”  Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine, X(August 29, 1927), 77.  The cover of this issue featured a portrait of Bishop Brent.

“St. Andrew’s Buffalo,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 5(January 1925), 16.

“St. Andrew’s Church, Buffalo,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 7(October 1927), 150-151.

“St. Andrew’s Church, Buffalo,” Our Diocesan Fellowship, 8(April 1928), 76-77.

“St. Andrew’s Church Marks Anniversary,” Buffalo News, November 20, 1931. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 51.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

“St. Andrew’s Church Has Cornerstone Laying,” [June 11, 1927].  In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 49.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

“St. Andrew’s Church Home is Dedicated,” Buffalo News, April 15, 1929. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 53.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

“St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church to Observe 50th Anniversary,” Buffalo Courier-Express, November 28, 1941.

“St. Andrew’s to Dedicate New Edifice Tomorrow,” Buffalo Courier, April 14, 1928. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 52.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

Slater, Eleanor. Charles Henry Brent, Everybody’s Bishop.  Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishng Co., 1932.

Stanton, Phoebe B. The Gothic Revival & American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste, 1840-1856.  Baltimore; Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968.

“Two Churches Plan Anniversary Fetes,” Buffalo News, November 28, 1931. In Churches scrapbook, Vol. 4, 51.  Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Central Branch.

“Western New York,” The Living Age (September 3, 1892), 13.

Zabriske, Alexander.  Bishop Brent, Crusader for Christianity Unity.  Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1948.

Unpublished Materials

Charles Henry Brent Papers, Archives of the Diocese of Western New York.

Charles Henry Brent Papers, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society.

Charles Henry Brent diaries.  Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Minutes of the Vestry of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, in possession of the church. 

North and Shelgren Collection, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, boxes 1, 64, D-31,1, and 102NB-1.

Plans and specifications for the church and alterations in possession of the church.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2016
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