St. Stans...
I caught this letter in Saturday's BN and thought it was pretty interesting in light of what Buffalo's Common Council President and presumed Fillmore Avenue resident David Franczyk had to say about the renovations at St. Stans recently.

Changing historic architecture of St. Stan's is serious mistake


I initially shared in Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz's goal of re-establishing St. Stanislaus as the primary focal point of Western New York's Polish-American community. Many of the projects he initiated have had a positive effect on preserving the parish complex and energizing a sense of pride among parishioners.

Unfortunately, my support of his efforts has changed following the drastic alterations taking place to the interior of the church. The removal of pews and the out-building of the altar destroy the architectural and historic integrity of one of Buffalo's most important cultural landmarks.

The alterations contradict the common attributes associated with the Polish community: heritage, tradition and history. I believe the parish has made a grievous mistake in changing the historic architecture of the building. My family's involvement and dedication to the parish can be traced back to 1887. For generations of ancestors before me, the altar has played host to countless sacraments. The changes have made the church unrecognizable.

With this letter, I formally protest Grosz's undertakings and ask that the Parish Council please reconsider the construction of the new, historically inappropriate altar.

Martin Biniasz, Buffalo

St. Stanislaus
Marty Biniasz is the genius behind Biniasz.com that I first linked to last January, over here. On Marty's site you'll read more about the fight to save St. Stans and make sure to check out his coverage of Broadway Fillmore's Polonia - tons of old photos. He also has a section called Lost Buffalo. Don't miss it.

Contrast Marty's position on St. Stans with presumed Fillmore Avenue resident David Franczyk's. This letter appeared in the BN on October 30th.

How can people knock bishop for improving historic church?

I am appalled by the petty, small-minded criticism leveled at Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz for having the vision to invest in beautifying St. Stanislaus Church, the Mother Parish of Polonia. Criticism is usually reserved for people who let their buildings deteriorate; are we now knocking someone for improving property?

Grosz's critics insult the hope of those who refuse to believe that the East Side is condemned to an earthly hell of abandonment and deterioration. Have they no faith?

The renovation of St. Stanislaus Church is a powerful inspiration to other property owners to fix up their homes and buildings on the East Side. It is also an important historic landmark of great importance to the entire Western New York community.

Every week, hundreds of people either attend church there or take part in the numerous religious, civic or cultural functions in the renovated Social Center.

I am deeply grateful to Grosz for helping improve the district I represent. The beautifully lit-up spires of St. Stan's are a nightly beacon pointing the way to a better future for a proud neighborhood.

David A. Franczyk

I had the opportunity earlier this summer to walk part of Franczyk's Forgotten Fillmore district. It's the epitome of the "detroitization" of Buffalo. He's been spending alot of time 40 miles to Buffalo's south in Perrysburg, NY recently. He's even won an award down there...as the Fillmore District entered another circle of Dante's hell.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr

1 comment:

Adam Hudymiak said...

I am a 22 year old graduate of Canisius College. My family has ties to St. Stanislaus Parish that trace back to my great-grandparents, who became parishioners there when they arrived in Buffalo from Poland. Likewise their children and their children after them were also parishioners. It was only when my Mom and aunt eventually moved to other areas in the region that they left the parish. The family still holds a dear place in their hearts for this church and the parish, and make occasional trips to the church throughout the year. In the meantime I have been following the activities and progress of the church through their website.
When the parish began to make improvements to the grounds and the facilities I was excited. They removed decades old growth of overgrown shrubs and trees that crushed drainage pipes. They landscaped the entire parish campus, and lit the outside of the church. Every night the steeples of the church act as a beacon of hope to the surrounding region, and can be seen past the border of Buffalo. A handicap ramp was also constructed so that the elderly could better access the church. This was a dream of the previous pastor, and has finally come to fruition.
The rebirth of the parish continues inside as well. The ill effects of a massive renovation in the 60's is being undone. Intricate moldings have been restored and gilt, beautiful chandeliers have been installed, historic murals were uncovered from layers of paint, and were restored to their original beauty. Laminate wainscoting is being removed, and original woodwork is being restored. The plaster is being repaired and the entire interior painted. This is bringing back to life the beauty of this building. I became amazed at the scope of the renovations across the parish campus. The church is returning to its historic appearance, like my Mom remembers from when she was a student there. While most people who have ties to the parish are ecstatic about its rebirth and preservation, they also have their concerns.
The main concern is that the altar was removed from behind the communion rail. 1/4 of the pews have been removed to make room for a new altar platform. This platform is like a massive stage that has been plopped down into the middle of the church, with no regard for scale or aesthetics. The removal of so many pews leaves the church looking like the victim of a misguided renovation, and the result looks absurd. It is a large church, and seating only appears to take half the floor space. Further, the repositioning of some pews on either side of the altar creates an obstruction to the side altars of the transept, hinders traffic flow, and appears cramped.
I understand the movement in churches to create a closer experience of the mass through seating. However, doing so in a church that wasn't designed for it is not only ineffective, but ruins the meditative beauty of the space. As someone from a younger generation I think it is revealing that I value the preservation of the history of this church more than creating ill-fitting worship configurations. It is people my age who would most likely appreciate a closer celebration of the mass, but it feels as if the past is being disrespected and the building is being marred.
I think that a possible compromise would be the return of at least half of the removed pews. The pulpit would look nice in its historical place under the canopy, however raised to its original height. The new altar platform could be shrunk to half the size it is now, only projecting out from the communion rail what is necessary for the altar and seating for the celebrant(s). Almost everyone is grateful to Bishop Grosz for all he has done to stabilize and reestablish the parish in the community. However, I think this one decision was not made with consideration for the history of the building. It likewise does not recognize the importance of tradition to Americans of Polish decent. Tradition helps create a link to the past that many experience through this church. Further, this drastic modification to the building has created a division between many people and the parish. I hope that more people voice their thoughts on this modification, and that the parish reconsider such a drastic alteration to this historic church building.