How many of you know where the country of Macedonia is? For those who don’t, Macedonia is in that part of the world known as the Balkans, and is right above the country of Greece and below the country of Serbia, and it combined with several other countries used to be known as Yugoslavia. We cannot even begin to explain, let alone understand ourselves, the many different ethnic and religious divisions that exist in that part of the world but we do know that Macedonia has a very rich heritage that has existed for centuries, dating at least as far back as Alexander the Great. One of the many institutions that are essential to the makeup of these proud people is the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Understanding the different divisions of Orthodoxy is also equally hard to understand; however that does not stop Chris and I from trying, so when we found out a tour of St. Dimitria Macedonian Orthodox Church was being offered during the 17th Annual Macedonian Ethnic Festival this year, we jumped at the opportunity.
If you’ve driven through the lands that are Rush, NY you have seen plenty of wide open pastures and farmlands dotted with occasional homes, farms, parks and a few housing developments. The town of Rush is small (though it is home to the meeting place of my parents so I’m grateful for its establishments) and …View full post
The Third Presbyterian Church on East Avenue in Rochester has a long important history for both the city and for the history of religion; for this reason we’ve been attempting to get inside and see the church for the entire two years we’ve been doing this project. For whatever reason, each time we attempt to reach …View full post
Having heard that a popular and celebrated minister of Universalism was passing through their home town of Rochester, New York, members of the First Universalist Church saw an opportunity and kidnapped this clergyman as their own… Okay, maybe this didn’t actually happen. But what did actually happen was that two members of the First Universalist …View full post
Temple B’rith Kodesh was founded here in Rochester in 1848 by 12 immigrants (ironically, this is the same year of the founding of the Oneida Community that we visited last week), and was the first Jewish congregation in the area. At its inception, it was an Orthodox group that met in a home. Following a …View full post
The impetus for this project of exploring the local sacred sites started with a conversation about the fact that there were a ton of really interesting things in Upstate NY specific to religion and spirituality, and even Rochester that we had never seen. This entire region has some really incredible sacred sites that are held …View full post
A couple of years ago we attended a lecture that accompanied an exhibit of rare Tiffany stained glass windows at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. Though we had previously seen a few windows on our explorations that were created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the experience gave us the inspiration to continue learning more about one of the most celebrated artists to hail from the U.S.
Born on February 18, 1848 in New York City, Tiffany would begin his career as a painter and then an interior decorator. His reputation for interior design earned him the esteemed honor of being the only person that Chester Alan Arthur would allow to decorate the White House before he took office as the 21st President in 1881. Soon thereafter, Tiffany would begin meddling in stained glass art and quickly honed the craft to the point of securing his name in the history books forever. Indeed, even today his name is often erroneously made synonymous with stained glass art in general. Though Tiffany became famous for his stained glass work, he continued to do a bit of interior design as well. There are a number of sanctuaries around the country that he designed corner to corner and we consider ourselves pretty lucky to be living in the Burned Over District where there are two! A while back we brought you the story of our visit to the Willard Memorial Chapel in Auburn, we felt it was due time that we visited the First Presbyterian Church in Bath to experience first hand one of the other wonders of Tiffany’s legacy.
While many of the places we’ve visited for the purpose of this blog are still actively used for worship activities, we spend plenty of time at museums, historical sites and roadside attractions too. The Heritage Square Museum in Ontario, NY is home to a number of very cool historical buildings that can be viewed while taking a well-worth-it $4.00 tour. While we were interested in the entire tour for ourselves, we really made sure that we got to see the old Baptist Meeting House so we could tell you about it! We spent a brief afternoon on a walking tour with a friendly docent and a couple other people who had shown up as well.
Chris and I have met some fantastic people on our journeys and we have always been astounded by the sheer number of activists in Buffalo, New York and more specifically those activists who take a keen interest in the history of the Polonia neighborhood. If you have never read our blog before then you may not know that we have made an effort to visit several of these Polonia churches because they are simply spectacular pieces of architecture and history. But you may also not know that several of them have come upon hard times in the last few decades, with some being shut down and others experiencing dwindling membership. Thanks to the concerted and long lasting efforts of the Polonia activists, some of the churches are experiencing a bit of a renaissance; in fact just this week our friend Greg Witul wrote a fantastic article in the Am-Pol Eagle explaining some of this, which you can read more about here. We came to learn (and continue to learn) about the history of this neighborhood in a piece meal sort of way, which first started during our visit to St. Adalbert’s Basilica (which if you have not read yet just click here). After we posted our visit to St. Adalbert’s, we received a wonderful comment from Ms. Judith Felski who invited us to visit St. John Kanty Roman Catholic Church, of which she is a member. Well, it took us a year but we finally got there and in the meantime, St. John Kanty has received a ton of publicity, in part due to the Buffalo Mass Mob and a brand new statue of the Virgin Mary in its front lawn.
The City of Buffalo, New York, also known as the “Queen City of the Lakes,” was incorporated as a city in 1832 and by 1851 had what some believe to be its first architectural landmark established with the consecration of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Located only a few blocks from Lake Erie and also strategically placed at the western end of the Erie Canal, St. Paul’s represented the “progressive spirit of the young city” that was enjoying growing prosperity from its pivotal location between the farmlands and resources of the west and the markets and industry of the east. By 1866, St. Paul’s become the Episcopal Cathedral for the newly established Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, a function it has continued to perform ever since.
As part of Explore Buffalo‘s ‘Masters of American Architecture‘ walking tour, we seized an opportunity to see inside and learn about a few important pieces of the city’s design and development. While the other stops on the tour were ones we were greatly looking forward to, I’d be lying if I told you that we didn’t take this tour specifically to be able to peek inside two of downtown’s religious gems, one of which was St. Joseph Cathedral. For $10.00 and a couple hours of walking, this tour gives attendees an opportunity to be led around a couple blocks of the downtown area and hear about architectural design features that may be plain as day and out in the open, but are seen in new light with someone pointing out subtleties and explaining the history behind them. Luke and I aren’t always perfectly patient on guided tours with a group of people, but I’d say we did pretty good staying on track with the others and not wandering off on our own….much.
While the City of Buffalo was becoming a bustling metropolis in the mid-nineteenth century, the Catholic diocese of NY decided that Western NY could sustain its own and so was born the Diocese of Buffalo in 1846. The first of many Bishops, John Timon came to the area and would assume leadership of the region for the following twenty years. While there already were a number of churches present, none of them held the distinction of being a Cathedral, which is a designated ‘seat’ of the Bishop in a diocese. Timon began right away acquiring the land at what was then known to be ‘Webster Gardens’, but today is easily more identifiable as being on the corner of Franklin and Swan Sts.
The Christ Episcopal Church in Willard, NY (that just so happened to also have free tours the day of the Willard Psychiatric Center annual tour) was first built in 1886, with the congregation forming nine years before that in 1877. According to Bea, our tour guide of the church, historical church documents reveal that in 1877 the people who lived in the newly formed Hamlet of Willard in Ovid, NY began to worship together at the ‘urging and guidance’ of the Reverend Charles W. MacNish, who was then the Chaplain of the Willard Asylum for the Insane (now referred to as the Willard Psychiatric Center), located directly across the street. The beginnings of those early services were to become known as “cottage services” because they were held from one house to another, and since Willard is literally on Seneca Lake, cottages were the typical housing built for the employees of the also newly built Willard Asylum. Only nine short years later in 1886, the corner stone was laid for the current structure Chris and I were now standing in. Little did we know how deeply entrenched this church was in the history of the former asylum…and yes, we saw the asylum too so keep reading.
Probably one of the most unique geographic regions in the country for the ideas that arose here about spirituality, the Burned Over District gets only more unique and auspicious when one studies the other movements from the region that would go on to change the country, and even the world. While movements like the abolition of slavery, prohibition and women’s rights were gaining a steadfast foothold in American history, it’d be tough to imagine any of them without the influence of the previous religious fervor that swept Upstate NY just a few years before. Seneca Falls is known as the ‘Historic Gateway to the Finger Lakes’ and is familiar to many because it’s believed to have inspired the fictitious town of “Bedford Falls” where the 1946 classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life” took place. Much more famously though, 100 years previous to the film, Seneca Falls would host the first ever annual Women’s Rights Convention in July of 1848.
One of the many influential women present at that very first conference was Amelia Jenkins Bloomer, who in addition to furthering the fight for women’s rights, would go on to change the role fashion played in the everyday lives of women by inventing the Bloomers. While living in Seneca Falls at the age of 25, Bloomer was baptized at the Trinity Episcopal Church on April 8, 1843. A small, wooden framed edifice built in 1834 on the canal that conducted upwards of 900 baptisms and over 8,000 services in its time. Like many groups, the parish outgrew their home and began the fund raising necessary to purchase the property on Fall Street, where they built their new (and current) home directly across the canal from the previous. Because of Trinity’s position in one of the most historic towns of Upstate NY and its geographical position on the picturesque Van Cleef Lake attached to the canal, we’ve been told numerous times that it’s the most photographed church in all of New York. While we haven’t been able to find any statistician-approved documentation to corroborate the claim, we haven’t found any to the contrary either. While in the area doing some exploring, we set out to visit a church that has been on our list for years and to take just a few more photos of our own.