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Posts Tagged ‘St. Joseph’s Cathedral’

fillmoreFillmore Avenue runs north-south through the East Side of the City of Buffalo, between Seneca Street in the south to Main Street in the north.  The street is named after President Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States.

Millard Fillmore was born in Locke, Cayuga County, New York on January 7th, 1800.  His parents, Nathaniel Fillmore and Phoebe Millard were among the pioneer settlers of the so-called Military Tract.  Nathaniel was a farmer and built a log cabin for his family.  Millard worked on his father’s farm and attended local schools until he was 15 years old.

Millard Fillmore portrait from the National Portrait Gallery

Millard Fillmore portrait from the National Portrait Gallery

In 1815, Millard served as an apprentice in a carder and cloth-dressers business in Newhope, New York (carding is the process of preparing wool for use as textile).  While working for the shop, he began to self educate himself, reading everything he could get his hands on.  When Millard was 18, he taught school for the Town Of Scott for a term.  He decided that he wanted to study law, and entered into the law-office of Judge Walter Wood at Martville.  In 1821, he arrived in Aurora to teach a winter school in East Aurora.  In 1822, he came to Buffalo and taught at a district school while also studying law under Asa Rice and Joseph Clary.  While in Buffalo, one of his students was  Alvan Dodge.

In Spring 1823, Mr. Fillmore was admitted to practice in the Court of Common Please, and opened his office in East Aurora.   The Fillmore house in East Aurora is now the Millard Fillmore Museum.  In 1827, he was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court and became counselor in 1829.  In 1830, he moved to Buffalo to form a law partnership with Joseph Clary.

Fillmore House on Franklin Street

Fillmore House on Franklin Street

He lived at 180 Franklin Street in Buffalo (near Franklin and Huron…the house has been demolished).  He practiced law until 1848, when his duties as a politician forced him to give up his private practice.  The firm he was a part of still practices in Buffalo today as Hodgson Russ, LLP, one of Buffalo’s oldest law firms.

Mr. Fillmore was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1828.  He served in the Assembly until 1832, when he was elected to Congress.  He served in Congress until 1842, when he declined renomination.  In 1847, he was elected New York State Comptroller, and in 1848, he was elected Vice President of the United States.  When President Taylor died in July 1850, Millard Fillmore became President of the United States.

President Fillmore came into his presidency at a critical period of national affairs.  He took great pains to complete his presidential duties with what has been described as unswerving conscientiousness, purity and patriotism.  In 1856, Fillmore was nominated for the Presidency by the National American Convention, but he did not win the election.

Millard Fillmore House on Niagara Square

Millard Fillmore House on Niagara Square

President Fillmore retired from public life after his presidency.  He passed his days at home in Buffalo advancing scholarly activities.  After his presidency, he and his new wife, Carolyn decided that the Franklin Street house was not fit for a former president.  He purchased a large mansion on Niagara Square in 1858.  His house was located where the Statler Hotel is today.

Millard Fillmore contributed significantly to Buffalo’s growth and development.  He helped to frame the charter that established the Village of Buffalo into the City of Buffalo.  He was one of the founders of the University at Buffalo in 1846, and served as the school’s first Chancellor, a position he served until his death.   While Fillmore was a Unitarian and is often criticized for being “anti-catholic”, he contributed substantial money to the construction of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.   During his time in Congress, he secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and to expand the Erie Canal.  He helped to found the Buffalo Historical Society (now the Buffalo History Museum) in 1862 and served as its first president.  He served as Chairman of the Buffalo Committee of Public Defense and helped incorporate the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (now the Albright Knox Art Gallery).   He spearheaded a campaign to raise money for Buffalo’s Society of Natural Sciences (now the Buffalo Museum of Science).  In 1867, he helped to found the Buffalo Club, the city’s first exclusive social club, and served as its first president.  He contributed financially to the construction of the Buffalo General Hospital, which opened in 1858.  In 1870, he served as President of the Buffalo General Hospital.  From 1870 until 1874, he served as a trustee of the Grosvenor Library, one of the predecessors of the Buffalo Public Library and one of the nation’s most comprehensive reference libraries.  He founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and served as its vice president.

Millard Fillmore as Captain of the Union Continentals

Millard Fillmore as Captain of the Union Continentals

During the Civil War, Fillmore denounced secession and supported the Union War efforts.  He commanded the Union Continentals, a corps of men over the age of 45 from Upstate New York.  The Continentals trained to defend Buffalo in the event of a Confederate attack.  The corps performed military drill and ceremonial functions at parades, funerals and events.  The Union Continentals guarded Lincoln’s funeral train when it came through Buffalo, and continued operations following the war.  Fillmore remained involved with them until his death.

Millard Fillmore died on March 8, 1874.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Since 1937, a celebration to honor Fillmore’s legacy in Buffalo occurs every year at the Fillmore grave on his birthday.   His home in East Aurora is a National Historic Landmark and operates as the Millard Fillmore House Museum.

Fillmore Grave Plot

Fillmore Grave Plot

When Frederick Law Olmsted designed Buffalo’s park and parkway system for Buffalo, Fillmore Avenue was extended to Abbott Road and upgraded south of Best Street as a parkway.  In Olmsted’s plans, the Avenues (such as Fillmore) were designed with a single drive lane with a double row of trees on either side.   The thoroughfare was linked by Abbott Road (now South Park Avenue) to Heacock Park, an existing park in South Buffalo.  Heacock Park forms the start of the South Buffalo park system.  The difficulties in creating a parkway connection were complicated by the Buffalo River and numerous railroads.  Buffalo City Engineers argued that if there was an at grade railroad-crossing, the road could not be considered a parkway.  Alternatives included a bridge which would have carried Fillmore Avenue over the railroads and the Buffalo River into South Buffalo.  The design of Fillmore Avenue was never fully realized and Fillmore Avenue was opened to commercial traffic in 1906.

To read about other streets, check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Hillman, Jordan.  “Millard Fillmore:  Buffalo’s Good Samaritan”.  National Portrait Gallery.   May 5, 2011.
  2. Smith, Lester, editor.  Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Millard Fillmore Papers.  Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.  1974.
  3.  White, Truman, Editor.  Our County and Its People:  A Descriptive Work.  The Boston History Company.  1898.
  4. Buffalo Park Commission.  The Projected Park and Parkways on the South Side of Buffalo. 1888.

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Timon Street

Timon Street

Timon Street is located on the East Side of Buffalo, running between High Street and Northhampton Street, parallel to Jefferson and the Kensington Expressway.  It’s one of my favorite streets in Buffalo, with its bricks and beautiful sycamore trees.  The street is named after Bishop John Timon, the first Bishop of Buffalo.

timon street

Timon Street

John Timon was born in Conevago, Pennsylvania in February 1797, a child of immigrant Irish parents.  His family moved to the frontier town of St. Louis Missouri, where his father opened a dry goods store.  John was an astute businessman, and the store had great success after he took over from his father.  John Timon was said to be polite and handsome.  He was described as a social lion and “an object of interest for all anxious mothers with marriageable daughters”.  One biographer commented that many though the store business became successful due to women coming to see John.  The financial panic of 1823 hit the store to the point of financial ruin.  Around this time, John had been engaged to young woman, who became sick and passed away.   He saw these two things as the ordeal of suffering in the realms of which vain men find themselves:  fortune and the heart, and decided to enter the priesthood.  In 1823, he entered into the order of the Vincentians and was ordained in 1825.

johntimon8He first served as a missionary.  He later spoke of the rough conditions as a missionary that the harder his labors, the more he felt pushed to spread the light of the gospel.  He served all people in the locations he visited, not only the white settlers, but the Native Americans and the slaves.  He journeyed hundreds of miles through unsettled countryside on horseback for 20 years.  He ministered in missions in Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi and Louisiana, at a time when developments were far and few in-between in the west.

In 1847, Father Timon was nominated by Rome as Bishop of the newly created Western New York diocese.   The Diocese was first established to include 20 counties in Western New York.   Bishop Timon’s arrival in Buffalo was fought with opposition from the trustees of St. Louis Church, which was at the time the largest Catholic Church in the Country.  St. Louis was a French and German parish, and Bishop Timon remembered his humble beginnings and had a strong affinity for the poor Irish settlers and lived with those who were more in need.  He moved from St. Louis Church to an apartment near St. Patrick’s Church (formerly located at Ellicott and Broadway) to better tend to the Irish.  The Catholic Church in Buffalo had a strong divide between the German, French and Irish Catholics before Bishop Timon arrived, and it grew stronger following his arrival.  After putting up with the opposition at St. Louis Church for years, in 1857, Bishop Timon excommunicated the men and closed the church for a year.

At the time, the majority of Buffalo’s Institutions were protestant.  Bishop Timon worked to meet the needs for the Catholic immigrants who were in need of services ranging from orphanages, hospitals, schools, etc.  After trying to work with some of the Protestant institutions to provide Catholic needs, as many of the residents of the facilities were Catholic, Bishop Timon realized he would need to create his own institutions.  He brought the Sister of Charity to come to Buffalo from Baltimore to help him.

Sister's Hospital, 1870 source

Sister’s Hospital, 1870
source

In 1848, the Sisters of Charity opened the first hospital in Buffalo.  While it was run by the Sisters, it was open to all residents, regardless of religious denomination.  The hospital got its start in a house at the corner of Pearl and Virginia Streets.  The hospital had several locations, including Main and Delavan, and is currently located at the corner of Main and Humboldt Parkway.    This hospital is today known as Sisters Hospital.  The hospital was run for 166 years by the Sisters of Charity and more than 850 Sisters have served at the hospital during that time.  The Sisters had a presence in the hospital until June of this year, but the Sisters have passed their legacy on to the lay people who run the hospital.

Bishop Timon was considered to have an extra kind heart.  He was known to give his coat to beggars he’d pass on the street.  A cholera epidemic in 1849 inspired him to established St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum, located at Ellicott street and Broadway adjacent to St. Patrick’s Church.  The Asylum was created to receive children whose parents died, and was known to carry the children to the Asylum himself.   Cholera epidemics occurred again in 1851, 1852 and 1854.  The disease was rampant among the Irish along the waterfront.  Since the disease spread through contaminated water, both parents would ingest the water so if they passed away, the children would be left parent-less.  The needs for the orphanage grew, and along with it, young widowed mothers also needed relief.

Providence Lunatic Asylum, Corner of Main and Humboldt Park, 1880 source

Providence Lunatic Asylum, Corner of Main and Humboldt Park, 1880
source

Bishop Timon established the House of the Good Shepherd, the first Catholic institution in the country to care for unmarried mothers and help them make a fresh start in life.  The organization received, nourished, clothed, and lodged these women until better situations were found for them.   The house accepted any girls, regardless of religion and allowed them to stay as long as they needed.  Bishop Timon sent one of his Sisters to visit the poorhouse Erie County had built in the north part of Buffalo.  She was shocked by the conditions for the insane.  Inmates were shackled to the walls and tied to furniture.  During the opening of the Providence Lunatic Asylum in 1860, Bishop Timon made a statement that the inmates were to be treated with humanity and not mastered by brute force.  This statement was revolutionary at the time.

St. Joseph's Cathedral,  Franklin Street

St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Franklin Street

Bishop Timon worked tirelessly to build a cathedral in Buffalo.  He saw in the 1840s that Buffalo was going to be a great city and felt that a great city needed an impressive cathedral.  The Catholic cathedral was originally to be located on Washington Street near Tupper where St. Michael’s church is currently located.  The opportunity then came for the Catholic diocese to purchase the Webster Garden Estate, located in the heart of downtown Buffalo, part of the “loveliest district with a beautiful park and rolling terraces stretching down to the shores of Lake Erie”.  Bishop Timon invited Patrick Keeley, an architect from New York city to design the cathedral.  Many of the laborers were Irish catholic immigrants who were too poor to donate to the cathedral, so they would donate their labor.  They’d often work all day as a laborer at their day job and then come work on the church.   The Cathedral was dedicated in 1855.  (Note:  a “new cathedral” was built at Delaware and Utica in 1912, but the construction was faulty – designed for Rome temperatures and not Buffalo winters, so the building had to be demolished in 1977, at which time St. Joseph’s became once again the cathedral in Buffalo).

Among other things, Bishop Timon also helped establish Nardin Academy, St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, Niagara Seminary (now Niagara University), St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, St. Bonaventure,  and several orphanages and schools.

Bishop Timon was a man of great scholarship.  He learned Spanish in a matter of a few weeks, just prior to a trip to Mexico.  He spoke several other languages as well, to be able to converse with the Pope and other European monarchs and the needy immigrants arriving in the City.  Bishop Timon’s friendship with the King of Bavaria convinced the King to donate a generous contribution to build St. Joseph’s Cathedral, along with donations from others in Europe and Mexico.

Plaque at St. Joseph's remembering John Timon

Plaque at St. Joseph’s remembering John Timon

Bishop Timon died in 1867 at the age of 70 of erysipelas, contracted from administrating religious sacraments in hospitals.  An estimated 100,000 people came to view his body, lining the streets of Buffalo to view his casket.   He is entombed in the crypt in the Cathedral that he built.

Read about other streets by clicking the street index.

Sources:

  1. “Memorials to Early Clerics In Street and Square Here”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  November 23, 1941.
  2. Bohen, Timothy.  Against the Grain:  The History of Buffalo’s First Ward.  Bohane Books:  2012.
  3. Deuther, Charles George.  The Life and Times of the Right Reverend John Timon.  Published by the Author:  1870.
  4. Tokasz, Jay.  “Daughters of Charity to Leave Sisters Hospital for Other Ministries”.  Buffalo News.  June 7, 2014.

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churchChurch Street is one of the main east-west streets in Downtown Buffalo, connecting to Main Street to what is now the Interstate-190.  The street was originally laid out by Joseph Ellicott and was named Stadnitski after Pieter Stadnitski, a Dutch banker and one of the agents of the Holland Land Company.  The street was renamed in honor of St. Paul’s Episcopal, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic and First Presbyterian Churches.

The Downtown Buffalo core used to be home to other churches, but many moved uptown as their congregants moved out of downtown towards “suburbs”, such as the case with First Presbyterian Church or Lafayette Presbyterian Church.

The Three Church Street Churches circa 1880s

The Three Church Street churches circa 1880s

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.  The congregation started in 1820, and their first church was built on land donated by Joseph Ellicott, at the corner of Main and Erie Streets.  Reverend William Shelton came to the church in September 1829 and served as Rector until 1881.  The congregation started to grow significantly following the opening of the Erie Canal.  The current church opened (on the site of the old church) in 1851, on Shelton Square.  The church was designed by Richard Upjohn, who is considered one of the greatest American Gothic church designers.  The congregation wanted the church to be made out of limestone; however, they could not afford the limestone.  Upjohn instead used Medina sandstone.

On May 10, 1888, the church was almost destroyed following an explosion and fire.  All that remained was the walls.  The church was rebuilt according to Upjohn’s original plans and reopened in 1890.  St. Paul’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Rev. Shelton

Rev. Shelton

Shelton Square was named after Reverend William Shelton in 1897.  Shelton Square was a public space within Joseph Ellicott’s original street layout for Buffalo, at the intersection of Erie, Church, Main and Niagara, North Division and South Division Streets.  The area was where Joseph Ellicott originally planned to build his house.  He later donated land at Shelton Square to the churches.  In the 1950s, Shelton Square was considered Buffalo’s “Piccadilly Circus”.  A trolley/bus shelter was located in the middle of the square, and this served as the main hub for the entire city – serving the International Railway Company and then the Niagara Frontier Transit system.   Shelton Square disappeared during the 1970s, when a portion of Shelton Square was covered by the Main Place Mall, and Erie street was replaced by Cathedral Park.

Shelton Square 1908

Shelton Square 1908

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral in 1914

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in 1914

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is located at 50 Franklin Street.  The church serves as the cathedral church for the Buffalo Diocese.  Buffalo’s first Bishop, John Timon, established St. Joseph’s in 1847.  The cathedral was dedicated in 1855 and was consecrated in 1863.  The original plans for the cathedral called for two towers at the north and south ends of the facade, but only the south tower was built.  The tower contained a 43 bell carillon (a musical instrument consisting of bells, typically found in church towers or municipal buildings).  At the time of installation in 1869, the carillon was the largest in America and the third largest in the world.  The bells were too large for the tower and never worked properly, so all but two were removed from the church.

In 1902, the Buffalo Diocese determined that a new cathedral was necessary, so property was purchased at Delaware Avenue and West Utica Street.  The New St. Joseph Cathedral opened in 1915, and St. Joseph’s downtown was known as “St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral”. The new cathedral was not built for Buffalo’s climate and major repairs had to be made as soon as 1924.  The exterior marble started to fall off and in 1976, the Bishop decided repairs would be too costly.  In 1977, after demolition of the new cathedral, the “old cathedral” reverted to its former name of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

First Presbyterian Church

Color Portrait of the First Building of the First Presbyterian Church  (First Presbyterian Church archives)

Color Portrait of the First Building of the First Presbyterian Church (First Presbyterian Church archives)

The third of the churches was First Presbyterian Church.  When First Presbyterian Church was organized on February 2, 1812, it was the first organized religious body formed in Western New York.  The first building for the church was built at the corner of Pearl Street and Niagara Street.  The church opened in 1824 and was used by the church until 1827. As the congregation grew, the building was sold to another congregation in 1828 and moved to the corner of Genesee and Hickory Streets, and was later moved to Walnut Street in 1878.  The building saw many uses over the years – a school-house, a tenement,  a cooper’s shop and an icehouse for a brewery.  It was destroyed by a fire in 1882.  No pictures of the building are known to exist.

"Old First" Presbyterian Church (1827-1890) from the First Presbyterian Church Archives

“Old First” Presbyterian Church (1827-1890) from the First Presbyterian Church Archives

First Presbyterian’s “Brick Church” was dedicated in March 1827.  With seating for 800, it was the largest church west of the Genesee River.  The church’s bell was referred to as the “town clock bell” and served all of Buffalo as a fire alarm.  When sounding alarm for a fire in 1833, the bell cracked, but was quickly recast and served the church until the church was razed.  The bell was then presented to a church in North Tonawanda.

As the congregation grew, members also moved away from the central part of the City of Buffalo.  At the time of founding, most of the congregation lived near the church, but as the central business district developed, many had moved uptown and found congregations closer to their homes.  The church was at risk of closing.  Many members of the congregation were against moving the church, so the matter had to be taken up with the Presbytery and was taken to court.  The matter was resolved in favor of moving.

First Presbyterian Church today on Symphony Circle

First Presbyterian Church today on Symphony Circle

In 1887, Mrs. Truman Avery, who lived where Kleinhans Music Hall is now located, donated a parcel of land across the circle, at the corner of Wadsworth and Pennsylvania Streets.  In April 1889, the congregation was ordered by the city to sell the property to Erie County Savings Bank to make way for the bank’s new office.  (the bank was located at Shelton Square until the 1970s, when it was demolished for construction of the Main Place Mall).

Sources:

  1. The Catholic Church in the United States of America:  Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X.  Volume 3.  Catholic Editing Company, New York, 1914.
  2. DeMille, George.  St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, 1817-1967:  A Brief History.
  3. Rote, David.  30-A Shelton Square.  1994.  accessed through City of Buffalo Website:  https://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/OurCity/Buffalo_My_City/Buffalo_My_City_Watercolors/30A_Shelton_Square_1994

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