Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York
By James Napora
Table of Contents


Hertel at East (NW)
Oakley & Schallmo
Founded March 1867

In the 1860s, the parish of St. Francis Xavier on East Street grew quite large as immigrants moved into the Black Rock area. In March, 1867 Rev. Martin of Holy Angels Church on Porter Avenue, who was serving St. Francis at the time, called a meeting of all English-speaking members of the congregation. He informed these people, predominantly Irish immigrants, that the parish was too large and they would need to make arrangements to worship elsewhere, as the church would now focus more on its German members. These expatriate members quickly organized to establish their own church.

They rented the upper floor of the North Buffalo Hall and began to hold regular Sunday services therein. Rev. Glennon, of St. Joseph's Cathedral on Franklin Street, traveled to Black Rock each Sunday to say mass.. Rev. McNab later replaced him.

A few months later, the congregation held a meeting at Collins Hall on Niagara Street and selected the current site for their church. They choose the name, St. John the Baptist, in honor of John Cantillion, a member who had played a large role in theformation of the parish. They immediately began erecting a small brick church, dedicating it in 1868.

In 1872 they enlarged the church due to the tremendous growth of the parish. In 1883, desiring space in which to establish a school, the congregation acquired the former Riverside Methodist Church and moved the building to East Street.

By the turn of the century, the congregation was once again growing rapidly. In 1910, the parish established a building fund as they were quickly outgrowing their old house of warship. On Easter Sunday, 1925, the congregation celebrated their final service in the original place of worship. Shortly thereafter, they demolished it in preparation for construction of the present building. Bishop Turner placed the cornerstone of the newbuilding on 24 August and Msgr. Nelson Baker dedicated it on 15 May, 1927.

Completed at a cost of $200,000, the building is typical of the ecclesiastical work of Oakley & Schallmo during the 1920s. It is well noted for the quality of its details. The Spanish Baroque entrance portal, with its terra cotta columns and coffered ceiling is surmounted by a fine rose window. The restrained interior, with its wood trussed ceiling, is subtly decorated with terra cotta detailing.

© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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