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Our Sandstone Heritage – Christ Church, Rochester, NY

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Christ Church Parish used sandstone from Albion to build a massive church in stages on East Avenue.

The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

ROCHESTER – I’ve been hunting down some of the great Medina sandstone structures in Western New York, and I’ve noticed the Episcopal Church consistently embraced our local stone for monumental places of worship.

The Episcopalians were early adopters of Medina sandstone. The Episcopal church in Medina was among the first to utilize the stone, building a church on East Center Street in the early 1830s.

St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo may be the finest church building made of Medina sandstone. (You can read an Orleans Hub article about that church by clicking here.) The enormous church was built from 1849-1851, using stone harvested from a quarry in Hulberton. I hoped Rochester would have a big Episcopal church made of sandstone. The community didn’t disappoint.

Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation at 141 East Ave., was built in stages over several decades from 1855 to 1903. I recently drove by the church on the way to the Strong Museum of Play, which is couple blocks away.

Christ Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 under the category of architecture/engineering. The church was built in a Gothic Revival style using “rock-faced red Albion sandstone,” according to a description on the National Register. The church has buttresses and flying buttresses.

The first church building was erected in 1855. The Episcopalians outgrew the space and added a building in 1887, with another to follow in 1894. The Johnson Tower, the tallest building, was erected in 1903.

I just showed up unannounced, and was given a tour of the church. It includes many Tiffany stained-glass windows, a 79-foot-high ceiling with an 80-foot-width, making for exceptional acoustics. Eastman School of Music students and professors often use Christ Church for concerts.

The church is committed to being a vibrant parish in service to the community.

“On any given day of the week you may find us carrying hot food from our kitchen to hungry neighbors, or absorbed in the beauty of music and liturgy,” the church states on its web site. “You may find us hosting world class musicians through our partnership with the Eastman School of Music, or pulling stones from our garden beds.

“Whether you are a sojourner passing by or looking for a parish family, it is my sincere hope you will stop by. We would love to host you.”