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Buffalo Armory cited as perfect example of Medina Sandstone – on a massive scale

Posted 26 October 2015 at 9:00 am
Buffalo Armory rendering

Provided images – This shows a drawing of the massive Armory in Buffalo, which last Thursday was inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

Press Release, New York State Division of Military & Naval Affairs

BUFFALO – The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Connecticut Street Armory was one of four structures inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 22.

The massive 116 year-old building was recognized by the Medina Sandstone Society during a ceremony in which it’s photograph and a short history was added to the Hall of Fame located in the Medina City Hall.

Other structures honored by the group, which is dedicated to noting the importance of the local sandstone in the architectural history of the region, are St. John’s Episcopal Church in Medina; Martin Manor, a private residence in Buffalo; and St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Holley.

Like most monumental 19th Century buildings in western New York and Buffalo, the Armory, which occupies 4.87 acres on Buffalo’s west side, was constructed of a specific type of sandstone which was discovered in Orleans County during the 1820s as the Erie Canal was being built.

“It was a very popular building material because of its strength and beauty,” explained Donald Colquhoun, one of the Medina Sandstone Society trustees and a member of the hall of Fame committee. “At one time there were over 30 quarries here in Orleans County.”

The Connecticut Street Armory is a perfect example of Medina sandstone construction on a massive scale, he said. The building is 280,362 square feet.

When picking nominations for its Hall of Fame, the group looks for historically and architecturally significant buildings that have weathered the period of time. It also needs to be a building that is beautifully maintained, Colquhoun said.

For these reasons, the Armory was an easy pick to make the 2015 list of outstanding Medina sandstone buildings maintained by the Sandstone Society, Colquhoun said.

The Medina sandstone is an amazing building material, said Joe Murray, the regional superintendent for the state armories in western New York. The stone in the Connecticut Street Armory looks just as good today as it did when the structure was completed in 1899, Murray said.

Buffalo Armory street view

The Armory in Buffalo is monstrous at nearly 300,000 square feet.

Taking its name from the village of Medina which was in the heart of the quarry area, the sandstone was durable, came in shades ranging from white, to red, to brown, to pink, and was fireproof.

“It last literally forever,” Colquhoun said. “In buildings that were built 150 years ago the sandstone looks the same.”

In the days prior to steel framed, concrete structures, Medina sandstone was the go-to material for large-scale construction, Colquhoun said.

The famous “Million Dollar Staircase” in the New York State Capital is constructed of Medina sandstone and blocks were shipped across the country. There is even Medina sandstone incorporated into work in Buckingham Palace in London, Colquhoun said.

So when the New York National Guard’s 74th Regiment began building its massive new home in 1897, it was only natural that the building designer, Williams Lansing, who was a captain in the 74th Regiment, decided to use sandstone from the nearby quarries around Medina.

The initial cost of the building was too high. The state was willing to pay $400,000 for the armory and the low bid was $600,000 for a Medina sandstone building.

But Lansing didn’t want to build the armory of brick, so the modified the design to get the contractor to come in under budget.

When it was finished in 1899 the Connecticut Street Armory was the largest National Guard armory in the United States. It was also empty inside.

The state had agreed to pay for the building, the interior details had to be paid for by the 74th Regiment. So from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6, 1899 the soldiers hosted a bazaar inside the armory, which included food vendors and exhibits.

Buffalo Armory under construction

This picture shows the Armory under construction during the horse-and-carriage era.

Among those exhibits, according to the book New York’s Historic Armories were a 30-foot-high replica of a medieval castle filled with period weapons and armor and a reproduction of San Juan Hill, which was stormed at regular intervals by the Guardsmen of the 74th.

One of the selling points of sandstone construction was its resistance to fire. When the massive drill hall of the armory caught fire in 1982 – 120 trucks were stored there – the Medina sandstone pretty much performed as expected, Murray said.

While the roof and interiors of the drill shed burned, the Medina sandstone walls remained mostly intact.

The sandstone walls didn’t go totally unscathed, Murray said. When DMNA rebuilt the structure some sandstone on the west end of the building had to be replaced. Doing so meant reopening the quarry the stone came from in 1898 and cutting stone to match, he said.

Murray, who is responsible for 31 armories from Gloversville to Jamestown, thinks it was worth it.

“It is a castle that is incredibly kept up by DMNA,” he said. “It is a showplace of the community, of an era when things were outstanding in the 1880s and 1890s.”

4 Medina Sandstone sites are new members of Hall of Fame

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 October 2015 at 8:00 am

MEDINA – The Medina Sandstone Society today inducted four new members into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame, including St. John’s Episcopal Church in Medina.

St. John’s is the oldest building made of sandstone in Medina. Construction started in 1832 and was completed in 1838. The stone was quarried from the banks of the Erie Canal.

Other members of the third class to be inducted in the Hall of Fame include St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Holley, Martin Manor in Buffalo, and the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo.

The Sandstone Society started the Hall of Fame in 2013 and now has inducted 14 sites. The plaques, all designed and donated by Takeform Architectural Graphics in Medina, have in the main meeting room at City Hall.

I’ll have more on today’s program posted either later tonight or tomorrow morning. Here are the other new inductees:

The St. Mary’s Parish in Holley dedicated its new Catholic church in 1905. The church has been meticulously kept the past 110 years. This year happens to be the 150th anniversary of the St. Mary’s Parish. The sandstone church replaced a wooden structure.

The Martin Manor residence is the first privately owned home to make the Sandstone Hall of Fame. This 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in circa 1900 at 395 Linwood Ave., Buffalo. The site fell into disrepair, but in the past 26 years has been restored by Peter Martin and his wife, Margaret Paroski. The couple raised their three children in the home.

The Connecticut Street Armory is a massive structure at 280,362 square feet. It was built from 1896 to 1899 to house the 74th Regiment of the New York National Guard. When it was built, it was the largest Armory in the United States. It continues to be used by Army and National Guard units.

Sandstone Trust has small grants available for community projects

Staff Reports Posted 12 October 2015 at 12:00 am

MEDINA – The Medina Sandstone Society is making several thousand dollars available in grants to community organizations and projects.

The grants generally range from $200 to $500 and are awarded to qualifying not-for-profit organizations and/or programs in the Medina, Ridgeway and Shelby region.

Funding is intended to help programs that clearly benefit this community and that have favorable tax and regulatory status.

The community endowment has given out nearly $20,000 over the past five years. The most recent round of grants included funding for improvements to the veterans plot at Boxwood Cemetery, to the Medina Business Association for Old-Tyme Christmas, emergency dollars to fix porch damage at the Medina Historical Museum, dollars to The Arc of Orleans toward kitchen equipment for Camp Rainbow, support for Medina’s Civil War Re-Enactment last April, stone repair from frost damage at the Armory (“Y”), and continuation of student scholarships.

To apply for a grant, organization leaders need to fill out a Sandstone Trust Application form and mail to Sandstone Trust, Post Office Box 25, Medina, by the application deadline, Nov. 14.

Application forms can be obtained as follows: In person at Medina Parts Co. (NAPA) 345 N. Main St. or Michael Zelazny, CPA 511 Main St.; By regular mail request sent to Sandstone Trust, PO Box 25, Medina, NY 14103; or online from the Sandstone Trust web page

Questions may be sent by email at or calling Michael Zelazny, CPA at 585-798-1006.

4 sites will go into Sandstone Hall of Fame on Oct. 22

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Medina was one of the inductees in the first class for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in 2013. A new class with four sites will be inducted on Oct. 22 and includes two buildings in Orleans County.

MEDINA – Four new magnificent structures will be inducted in the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame on Oct. 22.

The Medina Sandstone Society welcomes the public to the induction ceremony from 1 to 3 p.m. in City Hall, 600 Main St.

The Sandstone Society created the Hall of Fame in 2013 and has inducted 10 sites in the first two years. Another four will be inducted on Oct. 22. The new class includes two sites in Orleans County and two buildings in Buffalo, said Don Colquhoun, a member of the Hall of Fame Committee.

“All four are terrific examples of Medina Sandstone and I think the public will be pleased,” Colquhoun said this morning.

The 68-foot-high tower in Mount Albion, a Civil War Memorial, was inducted in the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in 2014.

The Sandstone Society 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 first class in 2013 included six structures: Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, St. Mary Catholic Church in Medina, the Medina Armory (now Orleans County YMCA), the Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo, St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, and Saint Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.

The following were inducted in the Hall of Fame’s second class: Delaware-Asbury Church (Babeville) in Buffalo, St. Louis Church in Buffalo, Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Mount Albion Cemetery, and St. Peter Cathedral in Erie, Pa.

For more on the Sandstone Society and its Hall of Fame, click here.

Historic walkway is reset by Pullman Church

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers
ALBION – Local stone mason Neal Muscarella has been busy the past three weeks at the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church. He has reset and repaired the front steps and pavement stones by the church at the corner of East Park and Main streets in the historic Courthouse Square.

After resetting the sandstone pavement stones, Muscarella worked on a section today between the sidewalk and the street. He is putting concrete in that strip, which will help to hold the sandstone sidewalk pieces in place.

Muscarella, an Albion resident, also spent two weeks repointing mortar on the historic church. He was in a cherrypicker lift removing old mortar and putting in mortar between the pink Medina sandstone ashlars in the church’s towers, chimneys, and above the roof line.

Pullman Memorial received assistance for the project from the St. Lawrence District of Unitarian Universalists Chalice Lighter funding program, and the Medina Sandstone Society in Medina.

The Chalice Lighter program receives donations from Unitarian Universalists across New York State. Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, is chairman of the buildings and grounds committee for the church. He worked with Muscarella on the restoration work.

Ghost Walk, lecture series will raise funds for chapel at Hillside Cemetery

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Visitors walk out of the chapel at Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon during an open house last September. Volunteers and the town are trying to raise $225,000 for repairs to the chapel, which was built in 1894.

CLARENDON – Genesee Community College history students will immerse themselves in Holley history as part of a ghost walk at Hillside Cemetery on Oct. 3.

The students will serve as guides and “ghosts” of some prominent residents from Holley’s past who are in the cemetery.

This will be the first ghost walk at Hillside. Derek Maxfield, a history professor at GCC, is working with the Clarendon Historical Society on the event, which begins at 7 p.m. and will be a fund-raiser for the restoration efforts at the cemetery’s chapel. Admission is $10.

“This chapel is an important piece of local heritage that we shouldn’t lose,” Maxfield said.

He praised the Historical Society for getting the chapel listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for pursuing grants and cleaning up the building, made in 1894 from local Medina sandstone.

The society is trying to raise $225,000 to restore the chapel, which needs a new roof, wooden window frames, some mortar repointing and repainting inside.

Derek Maxfield, shown here as a guide last October at Philemon Tracy’s grave at the Batavia Cemetery, is leading a ghost walk on Oct. 3 at Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon. Tracy is one of the few Confederate officers buried in the North. Maxfield said ghost walks are a way to highlight local history and draw attention to historic cemeteries.

Maxfield is pleased his students have shown a strong interest in the ghost walk. About 20 have already jumped at the chance to help with the event.

Maxfield and the students are looking through biographies of notable residents in the cemetery. The students will do their own research, developing the characters for the ghost walk.

“Any historic preservation project gets my attention,” said Maxfield, who is on a committee that picks “Heritage Heroes” from Orleans County. He also was coordinator of the Civil War Initiative the past four years through GCC, including from 2013-15 at the Medina campus.

Maxfield, the GCC History Club and the Clarendon Historical Society also have developed a lecture series at the chapel as part of “Hillside Heritage Events” in October to benefit the restoration effort of the chapel that was built in the Gothic Revival style.

Hillside Heritage events will include a series of evening lectures, without technology. The chapel will be lit only with oil lamps inside the chapel itself at Hillside Cemetery, just south of the village of Holley. Lectures begin at 7 p.m. and are free, though donations to the restoration fund will be gladly accepted.

The lecture series includes:

Oct. 26: GCC Associate Dean of the Orleans County Campus Centers and Historian Jim Simon will present “The Philosophy of History: What Does it Matter?”

Nov. 2: GCC Associate Professor Derek Maxfield will present “Victorian Death and the Civil War.”

In addition, retired Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin will give a lecture at 4 p.m. on Oct. 3, the day of the ghost walk. Lattin will speak in the chapel about Victorian Mourning Art.

Other heritage programs are being planned for Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the day culminating with the ghost walk from 7 to 9 p.m.

St. Mary’s Parish will celebrate 150 years in Holley

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 August 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – The St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holley will kick off the beginning of its 150th anniversary year with a big celebration on Saturday.

There will be a Mass at 5 p.m. officiated by Bishop Richard Malone, leader of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.

In celebration of the Feast of the Assumption, the parish will have its annual procession through the Public Square with a statue of Mary (pictured above). That procession will begin at about 6 p.m. at the church at 13 South Main St.

A party will follow at 7 p.m. with food and music. The Social and Education Center will also include a historical memorabilia and artifacts related to St. Mary’s Church, St. Mary’s School and St. Mark’s Church in Kendall.

The St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holley held services in this building on East Avenue, formerly called Canal Street. The parish moved to a new building in 1904, the current church made of Medina sandstone.

This photo shows the Rev. James H. Leddy, the parish priest from 1888 to 1898.

This postcard shows the new church not long after it was built in 1904. The postcard is part of a historical display being put together in The Social and Education Center.

The church remains a dominant and well-maintained landmark in Holley.

John Dellaquila has been a member of St. Mary’s for 50 years. He is pictured next to a statue of St. Rocco from the former St. Rocco’s Catholic Church in Hulberton. The statue was recently refurbished and is proudly displayed inside St. Mary’s.

The church in St. Rocco’s was built in 1906. The parish continues to put on the St. Rocco’s Festival. This year it will be Sept. 6. The festival has been an annual tradition since 1976.

Dellaquila said the parish has been energized with many younger members and the parish priest, Father Mark Noonan.

“We have a very young vibrant crowd that is doing more and more,” Dellaquila said. “It’s still a small parish and the people are friendly.”

Some of the artifacts at St. Mary’s include this book of recipes from the St. Rocco’s church members.

Church historians found this copy of a pew rental payment for $4 for the first quarter of 1899.

Portraits of the priests who have served the parish will also be displayed. The man in the lower right, John Castaldi, is the first priest to serve the parish. Castaldi led the parish from 1873-1875. In the parish’s first few years, it was a missionary church connected to the parish in Brockport.

The interior of St. Mary’s includes many stained-glass windows and ecclesiastical art.

Middleport Church is an enduring, dominant structure

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 July 2015 at 12:00 am

Our Sandstone Heritage

Photos by Tom Rivers
MIDDLEPORT – In this small village in Niagara County, the top of a large church made from Medina sandstone looms over trees and downtown buildings that are blocks away.

St. Stephen’s Catholic Church may be on a side street, but it is a dominant building in the community. I was passing through Middleport on Tuesday evening, and I had to get a few pictures of this church at 21 Vernon St.

I’d like to get inside to see what the big stained-glass windows look like.

St. Stephen’s in Middleport and St. Mary’s in Medina merged their parish in 2008 to become Holy Trinity Parish. The two churches share a priest, the Rev. Daniel J. Fawls.

I wasn’t able to find out when the church was constructed but I think it was from 1908.

Based on this stone, I would guess the sandstone church replaced a building from 1854 to 1908, with the new church openeing in 1908.

St. Mary’s in Medina, one of the most awe-inspiring church buildings I’ve ever seen in a small town, was built in 1902.

The rounded windows and arches is a feature of the Romanesque architectural style, which was popular in medieval Europe.

The church even put a stone cross up high on the top of the building.

This is an impressive site in a tiny village. Some other buildings nearby have sandstone in their foundations, but with this one it looks like every block, from top to bottom, was made of sandstone.

The Medina Sandstone Society is accepting nominations for the next class of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame. Click here for more information.

Sandstone Society honors Bent’s Hall on its 150th anniversary

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 April 2015 at 12:00 am

‘Landmark structure’ key to Medina’s growth in the late 19th Century

Photos by Tom Rivers – Robert Waters, president of the Medina Sandstone Society, speaks at the podium during an unveiling of a new stone historic marker for the Bent’s Hall, the building in the back. Others on the stage include, from left: Medina Mayor Andrew Meier, GCC professor Tracy Ford, Sandstone Society member Jacob Hebdon, Kathy Blackburn, Lynne Menz, GCC professor and Civil War Encampment Coordinator Derek Maxfield, and Chris Busch, chairman of the Orleans Renaissance Group.

MEDINA – As the Civil War was nearing its end, Don. C. Bent of Medina was preparing to open the Bent’s Hall, a three-story structure made of Medina sandstone at the corner of West Center and Main streets.

Bent acquired the land after a previous frame building burnt to ground on Oct. 7, 1863.

The new building included space for stores and offices, with an opera hall on the third floor. It opened to great fanfare on Feb. 28, 1865.

The building is mostly vacant now, but a group of preservationists are working to stabilize the building with plans to again have the site be bustling with businesses and a home to concerts and other performances.

On Saturday, the Medina Sandstone Society presented a historic marker made in sandstone to the owners of the building, the Orleans Renaissance Group.

Robert Waters, president of the Sandstone Society, thanked the ORG for working to bring back Bent’s Hall and not let the landmark structure fall into ruin.

Jake Hebdon, left, and Chris Busch remove the cover from the stone marker that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the opening of Bent’s Hall – “This Grand Edifice.”

Waters spoke with many Civil War re-enactors gathered on Main Street in front of Bent’s. The events in Medina on Saturday – the unveiling of stone marker and a surrender ceremony to mark the end of the Civil War – was a celebration of “strength and durability,” said Waters, wearing a top hat.

“First, we salute our nation which rose from the Civil War stronger than ever and with growth in all directions,” he said. “Second, we honor this fine sandstone block provided by Don C. Bent giving early strength and movement for the growth of Medina. It was a landmark structure that led decade-by-decade to an entire commercial district of long-lasting stone and brick buildings. They still remain.”

Chris Busch, ORG chairman, thanks Robert Waters and the Sandstone Society for the marker.

The Orleans Renaissance Group last year completed important stabilization of the front corner of the building. The group needs to have the roof fixed and is working on plans for design and construction estimates for interior renovations at Bent’s Hall.

The Sandstone Society has presented several sandstone markers for historic sites and community efforts in recent years. The society wanted to show its support for ORG and its efforts with Bent’s.

“Thus the public will always know that Bent’s Hall is something special,” Waters said in unveiling the marker.

Chris Busch, chairman of the ORG, said the stone marker and the Bent’s building should remind Medina citizens, now and into the future, of the great sacrifices made by the community – serving in war and building enduring structures.

Efforts to restore Hillside Chapel featured at preservation conference

Staff Reports Posted 20 April 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – The chapel at Hillside Cemetery was built in 1894 and is a focal point of the cemetery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

HOLLEY – The community’s efforts to restore the chapel at Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon was highlighted during a panel discussion during a preservation conference last week in Geneva.

The cemetery was recently included on the National Register of Historic Places and the Town of Clarendon and Clarendon Historical Society are working to secure grants to restore the Gothic Revival Chapel, which was built in 1894 from local Medina sandstone.

The chapel has been vacant and largely unused since the 1960s. Volunteers have cleaned it and are pursuing grants as well as funds from the community. Clarendon officials and volunteers were praised at the preservation for working to preserve the building before it suffers more deterioration.

Erin Anheier of Clarendon has worked to get Hillside Cemetery on the National Register, as well as helping to write other National Register applications in the community. She attended the conference in Geneva and was pleased to see the panel consider how to advance projects in smaller communities.

Photo courtesy of Erin Anheier – Panelists at the New York Statewide Preservation Conference discussed the fund-raising efforts needed to save the chapel at Hillside Cemetery. They brainstormed ways for smaller communtiies to tackle fund-raising efforts. The panelists include, from left: Cynthia Nikitin, Project for Public Spaces, Senior Vice President, Public Art Program Director; Roxanne Kise, Executive Director Western Erie Canal Alliance; Ruth Pierpont, NYS Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation/Deputy SHPO; Rick Hauser, AIA, LEED, AP, Partner In.Site:Architecture and Mayor of Village of Perry; and Wayne Goodman, Executive Director, Landmark Society of Western New York.

“The panel of seasoned experts in the fields of historic preservation, urban planning, architecture and small town revitalization, along with an audience of preservationists, brainstormed ideas for raising funds for the restoration,” Anheier said.

Wayne Goodman, Landmark Society executive director, commented that it was wise the community was addressing the building “before it was too far gone” as many communities wait until a restoration project becomes overwhelming.

All commented on the architectural significance of the building and encouraged the restoration. They particularly focused on its potential as a public space for the arts, including concerts, art exhibits, poetry readings, etc., Anheier said.

She would like to see a Sandstone Trail developed in Orleans County with the chapel serving as the eastern terminus.

Community members interested in contributing to the chapel’s fund-raising campaign can send tax deductible donations to The Clarendon Historical Society, P.O. Box 124 Clarendon, NY 14429.