Another incredible piece of Buffalo’s architectural heritage may be headed to the landfill later this year. The magnificent edifice that is St. Ann’s Church and Shrine on Broadway and Emslie will be reduced to rubble as the Diocese has deemed structural repairs too costly to complete (google map).
Last year Bishop Kmiec closed the 127 year old church without a long term plan, leaving the people wondering what would become of their long time place of worship. Once the church was closed, parishioners continued to perform masses in the basement of the large school to the rear of the church. The cornerstone of St. Ann’s was laid in 1878 and the church was dedicated nearly a decade later on May 16th, 1886.
The new Bishop, Richard Malone announced yesterday that the estimated cost of $8 to $12 million is too much for the Diocese to afford so demolition is the only option at this point. He also mentioned that those who are still worshipping in the school basement couldn’t continue their services there. They were encouraged to join the services at SS Columba-Brigid Church (google map) or elsewhere.
Bids for demolition have yet to occur, but will likely come soon according to Kevin Keenan, a spokesperson for the Diocese. When asked about selling the church he said, “We did have the church on the market a while ago and there was an interested party. However, they walked away because of the structural issues. Selling is not an option now.”
David Hirschbine is one of the people still fighting to save St. Ann’s Church and believes demolition is not the answer. “What’s false about what the Diocese of Buffalo is doing, is saying the building will fall down any day and that’s just not the case. For half a million dollars or less the building can have immediate structural issues addressed in the short term, which would buy us time for a long term plan” said Hirschbine.
The Diocese hired Arbour Construction Management years ago to complete a structural assessment of the building, which did not return favorable results. “Arbour Construction took reports that were eight to ten years old for the basis of their report” says Hirschbine. “After we brought in other firms looking for a second opinion, the Diocese contracted with Siracuse Engineers for an updated conditions report.” The result was largely the same, stating the structure requires massive investment and is in danger of imminent collapse.
Parishioners have been doing everything in their power to try and stop the Diocese from demolishing their beloved church. “We’ve been working closely with the Vatican in an attempt to gain support and there is an appeal in Rome that we are actively pursuing” explains Hirschbine.
If the Diocese does move forward with the demolition, “Once the site is cleared and transformed into green space, it will be available for future development” according to their official announcement about the razing, which can be viewed here. The article goes on to state, “The engineering study found that over the years, major capital projects at St. Ann’s were scaled back and preventative maintenance was postponed, resulting in an increased rate of deterioration.”
If you’re curious about the Diocese of Buffalo’s finances you can see their official financial report of 2011 here and 2012 here. For additional interior and exterior photos of the church and complex, check out my Ipernity page here.