The Salem Evangelical Reformed Church, located at 413 Sherman Street, was designed by Buffalo architect Jacob Oberkircher and built in 1907 (google map). Oberkircher's church replaced this wooden chapel that established this German congregation in the neighborhood in 1873. Fast forward 100 years. The pattern is familiar. Like with many of the East Side's heritage religious structures the people who worshiped here left long ago and the minister who lead the congregation can not be located.
Salem has been on my radar for a number of years. Last year I ventured inside, following a well-worn scrapper's path. I was awed. There wasn't one piece of broken or missing stained glass. The pews were mostly intact and the bell could still be rung with a rope that was strung to the tower. Records kept by the original German congregation were still on the shelves next to hymnals and various historical records probably belonging to members of the original congregation. Now, the series of pics - individually or as a slideshow - show a new story. The stained glass is now missing, the pews are in disarray and parts of the brick facade are crumbling in multiple locations.
I stopped by City Hall the other day and sat down with Ellicott District Councilman Darius Pridgen to talk about this church. I told him about the multiple entry ways. I told him about the missing stained glass and the crumbling tapestry behind what's left of the altar. Three days later all the entrances were boarded. Yesterday the front door was open.
I've been told by neighbors that Sunrise Congregation - the current owner of record - could no longer afford to heat the church, so services were held in the former minister's residence, adjacent to the church. That residence was demolished three years ago. I haven't heard yet, who paid for that demolition.
If there's an inventory of threatened religious structures in Buffalo, Salem needs to be added to the list. The roof will continue to fail. Bricks will continue to fall. Much like the "demolition by neglect" of Christ Evangelical Luthern Church at the corner of Broadway and Fox (2005) or the collapse of the school building at Sacred Heart on Emslie (2008), near Clinton - Salem Church is likely to meet the same fate. Soon.
Update January 20, 2012 - a number of local preservationists decided to padlock the church's front door. This was done in an attempt to help safe-guard the numerous religious and heritage elements still present inside this church.