Moving St. Gerard's South

St. Gerard's on Bailey Avenue was inspired by the Basilica of St. Paul's in Rome. Construction started in 1911 and was completed in 1931. Flash forward two generations - the Catholic Diocese closed St. Gerard's in 2008. It's now destined for a new home and will be systematically dismantled, moved 900 miles and reassembled near Atlanta.

Picture 6
rendering of St. Gerard's - South
Here's the new website.

With the future of Lourde's on Main Street in doubt and Transfiguration on Sycamore - long a symbol of Catholic disinvestment and neglect by an under capitalized owner - St. Matthew's on East Ferry and an ever increasingly longer list of neighborhood churches abandoned by their parishioners and congregations and other heritage buildings such as the stunning machine age Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company Power House designed by Albert Kahn on Elmwood Avenue - all experiencing demolition by neglect - is this now, moving a heritage structure South, the new preservation alternative? The respective economic futures of Buffalo and Atlanta on so many levels have now - since the construction of St. Gerard's began - been inverted. Are there alternatives to going South - best practices in other cities that are effectively being embraced - that should be adopted here in the Queen City for our remaining heritage sites? Are there ways - currently not being explored - to preserve, in place, our architectural assets?

Could the architects who designed St. Gerard's, the workers who built it and the parishioners who paid for the church ever imagine such a fate? Such sacred structures were made to endure...to last for hundreds of years.

So, what would it take to move the Statler?
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Paul said...

So much for the Catholic Church using their dollars to minister to the poor. Norcross steals a church and a troubled Buffalo neighborhood gets a new parking lot: more of that ever-abundant but never used shovel-ready land.

STEEL said...


This is the neighborhood the Church should be investing in! This is such a cynical move the the church. they are investing their money to save a building rather than souls

olcott_beach said...

I just became aware of this monumental relocation of St Girard’s and I would like to applaud the efforts because if not for this project, St Girard’s will become another victim of urban decay.

There are voices in Buffalo who will oppose this relocation but I have seen too many treasures become blights of urban decay due to lack of resources and community. A perfect example is Our Lady of Lourdes located on Main Street which has only been closed since 2003 but this magnificent building has been stripped of all of its stained glass and wood work and now sits empty and forlorn awaiting its final destination with a wrecking ball – medina sandstone carted-off to a landfill is a sad state of affairs.

I commend their efforts.

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested, here is the suburban site of the proposed relocation in Norcross. http://bit.ly/5TReSC

Dan said...

Ever read Unbuilding by David Macaulay? It's a children's book written in 1980 that details the dismantling and relocation of the Empire State Building.

I'm disappointed to hear that the plan to move St. Gerard's is actually going forward.

here's what I wrote on BR 16 months ago when the move was first proposed.


How do we reuse St. Gerards's, anyhow?

* The Catholics in the Delavan-Bailey neighborhood are mostly gone, except for some elderly hangers-on.

* The physical plant is too large, and therefore too costly, for most smaller African-American congregations to maintain. There's many smaller, more easily-managed non-Catholic churches fleeing whites left behind that are more practical for a growing inner city congregation.

* The neighborhood is distressed, so there's almost no demand for adaptive reuse such as lofts, offices, a large nightclub, and so on.

* Community center? Maybe with the school, but not with a sanctuary that costs tens of thousands to heat every year. It's a waste of money for what is probably an already-underfunded group.

* Museum? See the above.

There's only two option I see here, if the building is to be saved,

* Force pious Catholic whites at gunpoint to move back to Delavan-Bailey.

* Move the building

Maybe, though, instead of Georgia, if the building actually can be relocated, it can stay closer to home? Somewhere in the 'burbs, or possibly Toronto? Still sucks, but what's the alternative, aside from keeping it empty and spending thousands to heat and guard the place when it has no practical reuse as it stands?

FWIW, the kids I knew that attended school mat St. Gerard hated the place with every fiber of their being. The place was legendary in Northeast Buffalo during the 1970s and 1980s for its cruel corporate punishment. Whenever I met a St. Gerard student, almost right away they'd reveal tales of classmates or themselves being duct-taped to desks, forced to stand at attention for hours, and so on. St. Al's students experienced a cakewalk in comparison.


> Perhaps if more people stayed in the area we wouldn't have as much of a problem with dwindling populations in WNY.

As for Delavan-Bailey, the forces that drove people to leave the area can't really be summarized in a simple soundbite. It's far, far more complicated than "blacks moved in, and racist white ethnics fled." There were a number of forces pulling and pushing African-Americans and low-income households into the neighborhood, and other forces pulling and pushing lower-middle-class whites from the neighborhood.

As for the region, the primary reason people leave because given the choice of staying and being unemployed or underpaid versus working in another region for a competitive salary and possibly the chance to enjoy social and recreational opportunities they feel are better suited to their interests, many are going to vote with their pocketbooks. For many, the choice is limited: eat in Charlotte or starve in Buffalo.

Should people that move into a neighborhood be obligated to stay in that neighborhood forever? Are people born and raised in Buffalo morally obligated to stay in the region due to loyalty, even when it means their quality of life, career goals and possibly social life may suffer as a result? Should a birth certificate that reads "Buffalo" as a place of birth also be a ball and chain?

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