If you have been reading this blog for even a little while, then you already know from our journeys in Buffalo, NY that the Polish population there increased exponentially from 1850-1900. Well up until now, we have primarily shared this history under the guise of a Catholic heritage; however, the vast majority of Poles who settled in Buffalo before the year 1865 were Jewish. These Polish Jews of Buffalo founded their first congregation, Beth-El Synagogue, on Pearl Street in 1848. Almost immediately a sizable German population of Jews also began to attend Temple Beth-El since it was the only gig in town. However, the Germans were not necessarily in favor of the strict Orthodox nature of the congregation, nor did they like the fact that everything was said in Polish! Eleven of these German members decided to secede and start their own congregation concurrent with the German liturgy. This new congregation of German Jews began to call themselves Beth Zion (minus the word Temple since they did not have one yet) and met in several locations for the next fifteen years.
If Chris and I are going to go visit a holy/religious site outside of Rochester, New York, we will very often come up with a list of other, secular sites to see and do as well. However, when it came time to consider what we should see in Auburn, New York, we were originally a …View full post
Chris and I get all sorts of excited when we learn of a new place to see or possibly a free tour of some giant ball of yarn. We consider it a win win if we learn of a free church tour because then we just look to see what else there is to see …View full post
Infant Jesus sculptures started to become known in European churches sometime in the 14th century. While no one is exactly sure when the first statue was actually carved, many historical sources point to the Infant Jesus in the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain as maybe being the first, which was carved in 1340. …View full post
If you’re looking for it while driving up Blossom Rd or Indian Landing Road, in between the treetops and homes you can catch a quick glimpse of a few golden crosses atop the gold onion domes of the Protection of the Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church in Brighton. Without knowing it, you could easily …View full post
As Chris explained back on August 5, this October two women from Upstate, NY are being canonized, one of which Chris already shared with you, being Saint Marianne Cope. The other woman who he shared shared very little about will additionally be the first Native American to ever be canonized as well. We had the …View full post
Over time our blog has attracted the attention of people with similar interests, rather than just our personal friends and family. On occasion, we receive suggestions of places to go check out and we then do our own research to determine if it is something we would be into. Other times we receive suggestions from people who are as big of nerds as we are, who do their own research into cool and unique people and places, and it is these suggestions we don’t think twice about and follow up on as soon as possible. This second group is where I would place my friend Cait who I have worked with at my job for about the last year.
Shortly after Cait was hired where I work, she shared that she also works at the Mt. Hope Cemetery as a docent doing historical tours, plus she also once wrote an article about Spiritualism that was published in the biannual magazine Rochester History. Of course in response I had to share with her about the blog I help write, which Cait now follows regularly. Ever since then, Cait and I have struck up a friendship and we very often share our journeys of exploring Rochester with each other. One day while at work, Cait emailed me that the Mt. Hope Cemetery was having a once in a lifetime opportunity to view their 1912 South Chapel to commemorate the cemetery’s 175th Anniversary. Cait had previously shared with me before that she very often explored the outside of the chapel while in-between tours at the cemetery and that her husband was super crazy about wanting to get inside. However, when I received this email, I became a bit disappointed because I was receiving it on a Wednesday and it was about a one-time opportunity to view the inside of the chapel that immediate Saturday, and it was only open from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm….and that was it, take it or leave it. Unfortunately, I had to leave it since it was too short of notice for me, but at the very least I could tell Chris. However, Chris also was unable to make it so I simply asked Cait to send me a picture of the place and wished her luck.
When we find someplace that we want to visit that is more than an hour drive, we typically try to make a day trip out of it and see as much as possible at once. It’s no secret that Buffalo and the surrounding area is scattered with architectural gems; each time we visit we end up seeing three or four things and it still seems like we haven’t even scratched the surface of the list of places we want to go. On one cold, rainy and grey Saturday in early November we made just that kind of trip and spent the day meeting new people and seeing new places in Buffalo.
After touring around all morning we made our way in to the historic Black Rock neighborhood which is in the Northwest section of the city and at one time was its own municipality. In 1820 Black Rock battled the City of Buffalo to be the spot where the Erie Canal ended. We now know the City of Buffalo won that fight and Black Rock was later absorbed by the city. In addition to being the former home of a U.S. Congressman, an American poet and a U.S. Secretary of War, it’s also home to Nick’s Place, a Greek greasy spoon where we grabbed a quick bite in the middle of our long day. This of course isn’t a food blog, but allow me to recommend the “Nick’s Plate” which includes hot dogs, scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, cheese and a meat hot sauce on top of home fries–you’ll have to bring your own Tums though. Just a few minutes from Nick’s was our final destination for the day, and after slamming a couple diner coffees we drove a few blocks to a spot that has been on our list for quite a while, and we met up with our new friend Bill at the Buffalo Religious Arts Center.
In the year 1812, when the United States of America was only 36-years-old, the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo, New York began to meet for the first time. This was also only 11 years after the founding of Buffalo itself! If you told me that the current location of the First Presbyterian Church was the original church that was built in 1812 I would have believed it. Looking at the structure located at 1 Symphony Circle, what you see is what looks to be a very old, Gothic looking, stone building that just looks like it must have always been there, but in fact, the current location is actually the congregation’s third, having been built in 1889. Due to the church’s role in the creation of the City of Buffalo and also due to how cool the building looks, Chris and I were psyched to see the place.
For as long as we have been doing this, Chris and I have always wanted to go see Temple Sinai due to its unique architecture and its mysteriousness being tucked away back in the woods off of Penfield Road. We have reached out to the powers that be at Temple Sinai before and have been informed that while they do not offer tours, we are more than welcome to attend a Shabbat service on a Friday evening. Chris and I have gone back and forth on this idea as one we will “eventually do when we run out of other places to see.” Plus, Chris did go to Temple Sinai on a reconnaissance mission when the Temple was hosting a public book sale and returned with the message of “Dude, it’s a very cool sanctuary that we will have to check out some day.” So we continued to sit on it…until now.
I was sitting at my desk working really hard one day (I work at the College at Brockport), when I learned via my work email that a woman by the name of Rochelle Dreeben was going to be visiting the campus to share about her experience as a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi Occupation of Poland. As I read more of this brief advertisement, it also said that Ms. Dreeben would be giving the same presentation at Temple Sinai two days later. BOOM! That was our ticket in and Chris agreed.
I grew up in the town of Penfield and passed through the village countless times as a child. At that time I hadn’t honed my affinity for preservation or even sacred spaces, or even history itself really. Thinking back now, it’s interesting to remember being in Starbucks when it was a Friendly’s or to have been in the former library that was on Five Mile Line Road for story hour before they built the big, new ‘beautiful’ one on Baird Road. I remember when the vacant lot next to Dunkin Donuts was actually a building, and remember eating in the Ponderosa on Penfield Road that is now a pile of bricks, which was across from the movie theatre that is now a Dollar Store and Panera Bread. What I don’t remember though, is when the mixed-use office spaces located at 1808 Penfield Road was the Advent Christian Church–that all came to a close before I was born in 1979. While Luke and I did some more digging into the history of the church, we found out that the spot actually has a much greater influence to the area than its spiritual reach.
It’s no secret that many people are leaving traditional means of engaging with religious services to the history books, and congregations are shrinking in size as each day passes. Luke and I have mentioned it before on this blog, but one of the things we constantly think about is the idea that as congregations continue to shrink, and less revenue exists to support these buildings, that many will ultimately fall into disrepair and maybe even abandonment. We’re certainly not preservationists, but we do play one on the internet! There are so many wonderfully historic sacred sites that are pristine examples of the hard labor and proud artisanship that helped put so many neighborhoods in Upstate NY on the map, it would be a tremendous shame for future generations to not be able to experience them.
Chris and I hate to admit it, but occasionally there are actually places that we cannot get into and/or may never be able to visit. This is not for lack of trying, but sometimes we are just unable to get a hold of someone willing to show us around, or maybe the place is condemned or maybe the place is locked down in preparation for future demolition. If you have been following our Facebook page at all (if you haven’t been you can find it here and don’t forget to ‘Like It!’), then you know this last example is what is happening to St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo, NY.
Because Chris and I really have zero chance in getting to see St. Ann’s, but feel the story and plight of the current church is worth telling, we have sought the help of a fellow blogger from the Buffalo area. Several months ago I came across some interior pictures of an amazing church in Buffalo, NY and after figuring out who took the photo, I emailed him. This began a dialogue with Mike Puma, who is the Project Manager at Preservation Studios. Mike has made his passion for preserving history into his full time job, plus Mike is an amateur photographer who hosts his incredible pictures here, he is a large supporter of promoting the Hamlin Park Historic District on the East Side of Buffalo, NY, he is the author of the blog Views of Buffalo and he also writes part-time for the web site Buffalo Rising. With that kind of resume, we figured Mike Puma was THE GUY to ask to write a post for our blog about St. Ann’s, from past to present. We are very fortunate that Mike agreed and also allowed us to post his pictures a long with it.