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North & Shelgren - University Presbyterian Church

3330 Main St. at Niagara Falls Blvd., Buffalo, NY

University Presbyterian Church - Official Website (online Jan. 2015)

North & Shelgren

Robert North was one of the most prolific designers of ecclesiastic architecture in Western New York.

He was born in Batavia, New York, and graduated from Cornell School of Architecture in 1905, “after which he came to Buffalo and was associated with the old firm of Green and Wicks.”

He founded the architectural firm of North & Shelgren in 1925. North was “a distinguished architect” who “specialized in designing ecclesiastical buildings for 47 years.” He was influenced by the classical architecture he saw when he visited Greece and Rome in 1912, and “…although he observed with gratification that the United States is breaking away from European precedent and crystalizing its own architectural point of view from which he is confident new and original types of buildings will spring.”  

North taught architecture classes at Cornell in 1906 and from 1920 to 1922.  “More than 50 church projects were credited by him” in western New York, including St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia, NY (NR listed 9/24/2004), the Tudor Revival Calvary Episcopal Church in Williamsville (1952), and the Church of the Advent in Kenmore (1951).  He also designed a number of industrial, residential, and scholastic buildings in the region, including the Hall Baking Company Building, the Crosby Building and the Westbrook Apartments.  

North was an avid painter and, in 1937, his work was exhibited at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. North’s AIA membership lapsed in 1939, though he continued to practice architecture.

In 1945 the firm North & Shelgren dissolved. North retired from architectural practice in 1953 and, after several years of ill health, died on May 2, 1968.



Olaf William Shelgren was born in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, in 1891 and moved to Buffalo in 1911. 

He received his art education at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design and practiced as an architect beginning in 1910.  Shelgren was associated with firms in Ridgeway, Warn, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, including R.E. Krape, E.A. Phillis, Green & Wicks, MacClure & Sparr, North & Shelgren, Shelgren & Whitman, and Shelgren, Patterson, & Marzac.

He is credited with having designed over three hundred churches in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Because of his experience with churches, he served as the director of the Guild for Religious Architecture. “Noted particularly for his design of churches, Mr. Shelgren was considered one of the distinguished architects of the past 50 years in Western New York by his fellow architects.” 

Shelgren passed away at the age of 81 in 1972.  

- Source: Kerry Traynor, University Presbyterian Church National Trust Nomination. Section 8, pp. 5-6 


Photos and their arrangement 2015 Chuck LaChiusa
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