4 grand sites – sacred and solemn – join Sandstone Hall of Fame

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – New inductees of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame were celebrated during an induction program on Thursday. Pictured include, front row, from left: Father Michael Ferrick, rector of St. Peter Cathedral in Erie, Pa.; Stan Farone, trustee of Village of Albion which owns Mount Albion Cemetery; Jason Zicari, superintendent at Mount Albion. Back row: Keith Boerner, member of Church Council at St. Louis Catholic Church in Buffalo; Rev. Salvatore Manganello, pastor of St. Louis Church; Bill Lattin, member of the “Save The Tower” campaign in Mount Albion; and Scot Fisher, Babeville manager in Buffalo.

MEDINA – The second class of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame includes towering works of architecture, and structures intended to inspire worship of God or reflection on the sacrifice of the dead.

The Medina Sandstone Society inducted three churches and a Civil War memorial into the Hall of Fame on Thursday. Society President Robert Waters said the new inductees are all “magnificent.”

Robert Waters, president of the Medina Sandstone Society, is pleased with the success of the Hall of Fame, which added its second class on Thursday.

Waters praised a committee – Jim Hancock, David Miller, outgoing member John Slack and newcomer Don Colquhoun – for its efforts in researching nominations, which total 31 over two years.

Hancock is the group’s chairman and he said visiting the sites has given him a deeper appreciation of the local stone’s role in so many of the most durable civic structures in the region and beyond.

The Sandstone Society also wants to highlight the long-term stewardship with many of the buildings, and Herculean restoration efforts for many of the sites that likely would have been demolished.

The following were inducted in the Hall of Fame’s second class:

Delaware-Asbury Church (Babeville)

The church towers more than 200 feet, made of brown Medina sandstone. It was built in a Gothic Revival style between 1871 to 1876. It has one of Buffalo’s most recognizable steeples.

It was originally the Delaware Avenue Methodist Church. It remained an active church site until the 1980s. It was slated for demolition in 1995, but public opposition put off the wrecking ball.

Famed musician Ani DiFranco and her manager Scot Fisher purchased the building and now – $6.5 million dollars later – it has been transformed into a 21st century multi-purpose venue.

Fisher said the building’s new life has been part of the recent Buffalo revivial. He remembers when 20 years ago the sidewalk near the church was blocked off due to worries about falling pieces from the building.

He recalled when DiFranco walked into the church for the first time and saw the horseshoe-shaped balcony.

“What a great place for concerts,” she declared.

Fisher said the renovations have taken years. He is grateful the building has remained part of the Buffalo landscape.

“It’s no longer a church, but it’s a very special building in Buffalo,” he said. “We put our hearts and souls into saving this building.”

St. Louis Church in Buffalo

“The Mother Church” in the Buffalo Catholic Diocese was built in a Gothic Revival style from 1886 through 1889 and features the tallest open-work spire completely made of stone ever built in the United States at 245 feet high.

The two side towers are each 128 feet high. The church has room to seat 2,000 people.

The church completed a major restoration in 2002-03 that included slate roof repairs, tower restoration, exterior stone re-pointing and cleaning.

“It’s a wonderful structure and a beautiful part of the history of Western New York,” said the Rev. Salvatore Manganello, pastor of the church. “The parishioners do all they can to keep up the church as a beautiful place to visit and worship.”

St. Peter Cathedral, Erie, Pa.

It took 20 years to build, from 1873 to 1893. The Catholic Diocese based in Erie would run out of money on different occasions for the project, but Bishop Mullen kept rallying the faithful to get the project done, despite critics who deemed the church “Mullen’s Folly.”

The central tower stands 265 feet high with twin towers at 150 feet on each side of the main tower. It is a dominant landmark in the Erie skyline.

Hancock and the Hall of Fame Committee were awestruck by the grandeur and enormity of the church.

“We were overwhelmed by the beauty of this particular edifice,” Hancock said at the Hall of Fame induction inside Medina City Hall.

Father Michael Ferrick, rector of St. Peter Cathedral, accepted the award “on behalf of the people who worked in the quarry, on behalf of the people who built the cathedral, and on behalf of the parishioners who have cared for the church the past 122 years.”

The people in the church sacrificed to build the immense structure and to maintain it for more than a century “for the greater glory and to honor God,” Ferrick said.

There are now 10 Hall of Fame members and St. Peter Cathedral is the first outside New York State.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Mount Albion Cemetery

It took 11 years to raise the money and build the 68-foot-high tower on a hill in the back of Albion’s historic cemetery. The tower was ready in time for the country’s centennial celebration on July 4, 1876. It is a memorial for the 463 people from Orleans County who died in the Civil War.

It is a unique structure, with a spiral staircase leading to the top, offering a view to Lake Ontario and beyond.

The tower would gradually fall into disrepair and in the 1970s the village was considering blocking it off and perhaps demolishing it. But local citizens rallied, raising $20,000 for repairs. The tower was rededicated on July 4, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the country.

Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, was part of the “Save The Tower” campaign and delivered remarks at the rededication nearly 40 years ago.

He also spoke at the Hall of Fame ceremony, thankful for the people who worked to build the tower and those that pushed to save it.

“It remains today a pride in Mount Albion Cemetery and for our Orleans County community,” Lattin said.

Jason Zicari, the cemetery superintendent, also thanked the Hall of Fame Committee for choosing the tower.

“We’re very proud of our Soldiers and Sailors Monument,” he said.