Sandstone Society leading tour of acclaimed Buffalo sites

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 10 April 2019 at 1:27 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: The top of St. Louis Catholic Church in Buffalo is an open work lattice spire that reaches 245 feet high. It is the tallest open-work spire ever built completely of stone in the United States, and it is also believed to be the only remaining open-work or pierced spire in the U.S.

MEDINA – The 2019 Medina Sandstone Society’s bus tour is headed to Buffalo to see some of the city’s landmark structures that are made of local sandstone.

The Sandstone Tourism Committee – consisting of chair Sue Holland, Gabrielle Barone, Peggy Schreck and Rob Klino – have put together an exciting day on May 8, which will include several structures previously inducted into the Sandstone Hall of Fame and lunch at the historic Hotel Henry’s 100 Acres Restaurant.

The first tour sponsored by the Medina Sandstone Society took place in 2008 and was an idea of the late Bob Waters, who came up with the idea of a walking tour of Medina’s Main Street. Forty-five people took part in the tour, led by then County Historian Bill Lattin.

The next year, Lattin led another tour of Medina’s downtown, ending at the Medina Historical Society, in which 61 participated.

The year 2010 saw 68 people take part in the tour of three Medina churches – St. Mary’s, First Baptist and St. John’s, each made of different colors of Medina sandstone.

In 2011, Lattin included Todd Bensley of the Medina Historical Society in a canal walk to Medina Falls, in which 60 people participated.

The following year, 71 people signed up for a tour of Boxwood Cemetery, led by Lattin and Bensley.

After a tour of Main Street which focused on the newly installed historical panels, the Sandstone Society took a four-year break.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by the Episcopal Church from 1849-1851. The church used stone from a quarry in Hulberton. This church was Buffalo’s first major architectural landmark. It was designed by Richard Upjohn after he earned a national reputation for his design of the Trinity Episcopal Church in New York City.

Last year, Holland came up with the idea of an Orleans County Hall of Fame bus tour, which Lattin agreed to narrate. It included sites in Orleans County that are in the Medina sandstone Hall of Fame. In Medina the stops included Holy Trinity Parish (St. Mary’s Catholic Church), the former Armory (now the Orleans County YMCA) and then St. John’s Episcopal Church. The tour went to Albion and included the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, First Presbyterian Church and Mount Albion Cemetery. The group then went to Holley to see St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Hillside Cemetery, where the chapel has the only flying buttress in the county.

“That was so successful, we decided to branch out,” Holland said.

For the first time, this year’s tour will take participants on a bus tour to Buffalo , to view and tour interiors of historic Medina sandstone structures.

After gathering at 8:30 a.m. at Medina City Hall and viewing the Sandstone Hall of Fame on the second floor, the bus will depart for Buffalo .

One of the most anticipated stops will be the Hotel Henry, an elegant hotel in the Richardson Olmsted Complex. Construction on the 147-year-old Richardson Olmsted Campus began in 1872 and opened in 1880 as the state-of-the-art Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane.

It closed a century later, to reopen after a $100 million renovation as the new Hotel Henry. The hotel is named after its designer, Henry Hobson Richardson, who worked alongside landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also laid out nearby Delaware Park .

After the Richardson Complex fell into disrepair, a group of local preservationists in the early 2000s sued the state, forcing them to fix it up. The extensive renovation took 15 years and millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Hotel Henry has become one of Buffalo’s premier destinations for weddings and special occasions. The second floor houses the 100 Acres Restaurant, which was named for the 100 acres set aside for patient farmland when the hospital first opened. Eighty-eight guestrooms and suites are located in the two buildings flanking the towers.

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Sue Holland, a director with the Medina Sandstone Society and chair of the Tourism Committee, stands before the Sandstone Wall of Fame in Medina ’s City Hall. On May 8, the Medina Sandstone Society will sponsor a day-long bus tour to several sandstone structures in Buffalo, including lunch at the historic Hotel Henry at the Richardson Olmsted Complex, which is in the Medina Sandstone Society’s Hall of Fame.

The bus will drive by Lafayette Lofts, a luxurious residential complex created by the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church; Buffalo Connecticut Street Armory; First Presbyterian Church, across from Kleinhans Music Hall; and Ashbury Hall/Babeville. All have been inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

Participants will disembark and tour St. Louis Church and St. Paul’s Cathedral, both of which are also in the Sandstone Hall of Fame.

On the bus ride to Buffalo, two videos by Channel 2 will be shown – the first when Bob Waters and Todd Bensley were interviewed and the second where Lattin discussed the origin of sandstone quarries.

“The chance to see these videos is a real plus,” Holland said.

Holland also said the Sandstone Society is having booklets made of all the sites, and these will be given to riders.

“They will definitely get their money’s worth,” she said.

Anyone wishing more information may contact Holland at, by calling (585) 721-3809 or by clicking here for the Sandstone Society website.

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