Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
SAINT ANN'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - Table of Contents
SAINT ANN'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH - 1878-1886
Broadway at Emslie Street (SW)
Architect: Bro. Charles Halfmann after drawings by Francis Himpel
In the fall of 1857 Bishop Timon and local real estate developer Steven Van Rensselaer [Watson] traveled down Batavia Street (Broadway) with the purpose of selecting a site for a new Catholic Church. As was customary at the time, a developer would provide a site to a religious group provided they constructed a place of worship upon it. This assured the developer that there would be a reason for people to move into the area they were planning.
Bishop Timon, while desiring to establish a congregation in the area once people settled there, had another reason for acquiring property. He had brought the Jesuits to the city in 1848 and they in turn founded St. Michael's Church on Washington Street in 1851. The Bishop also desired that they found a permanent school for higher education in the city. He felt that the site on Broadway between Watson and Emslie would be a good place for a college and a church. Although the college never progressed further than the planning stage, the church did.
The first church
On 15 March, 1858 ground was broken for the first church of St. Ann. Later that month on the 25th, the cornerstone was placed and the completed building, constructed of brick and measuring 55 feet by 165 feet, was dedicated on 20 June. This original building, located on the site currently occupied by the school,served as church, school and rectory. At that time, a large portion of the land to the East of the building was virgin forest. But with the establishment of a Catholic church, the area soon became home to a substantial German population.
The second church
By the early 1870s, the original Romanesque house of worship proved to be too small for the large numbers of Germans drawn to it. The congregation initiated an aggressive building campaign, adding a second collection each Sunday for a building fund and securing the property fronting Broadway. They consulted with an architect from New York City, M. Himpel, who provided them with a sketch of a proposed building. Upon hearing of the cost,$135,000, they placed all planning on hold.
In 1875, under the pastorship of Rev. William Roether, the idea of constructing a new church was resurrected. An assistant at the church, Brother Charles Halfmann, who had honed his architectural sense through education and travel, prepared plans for the building based on the drawing Himpel had provided years earlier.
In preparing for the construction of the church, the congregation rented a quarry in Lockport to assure a supply of stone for the following two years. On 25 August, 1878, amidst much ceremony, Bishop Stephen Ryan placed the cornerstone of the building. The construction of the church became an affair on which all members of the parish were involved in. Brother Halfmann directed stone work at both the quarry and church and the skilled craftsmen of the congregation worked from his drawings to construct the six to seven foot thick, steel reinforced limestone walls. For the next eight years, the congregation toiled in the construction of their magnificent house of worship. At times work was slowed as they had made it their policy to only construct what they could pay for. As a result, they dedicated their $120,000 house of worship debt free on 16 May, 1886.
St. Ann's is perhaps the most European of all the religious buildings in the city. Deeply rooted in the European building tradition, it is a testament to the will of the German immigrants who built it. Constructed of limestone, the Gothic building is a noted landmark on Broadway. The mismatched towers resulted from settling in the ground during construction. Originally intended as matching, the masons modified the west tower after they discovered the ground could not support the full weight as intended. The spires, which towered to 200 feet above the street, were removed in August, 1964 after being damaged during a storm that past March.
The interior with its soaring nave and transept is cathedral-like in proportion, placing it amongst the best of ecclesiastical buildings in the city. The west transept contains an altar featuring a painting of St. Ann, one of many artifacts within the building brought from Germany. The thirty-five stained glass windows lining the nave, transept and apse were manufactured by F. X. Zettler Munich Works Glass. The large frescoes, painted by Leo Frohe, were completed in 1907.
Out of the original territory of St. Ann's, six other Catholic parishes were established:
- 1870 - St. Mary of Sorrows, Genesee Street,
- 1875 - Sacred Heart, Emslie Street
- 1883 - St. Agnes, Ludington Street
- 1890 - St. Mary Magdalene, Fillmore Avenue,
- 1896 - Holy Name of Jesus, Bailey Avenue
- 1905 - St. Joachim's, Titus Avenue.
© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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