West Avenue Presbyterian Church

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1931

Roof damage, 2019

Photo credit: B&ECPL, Zambito

926 West Avenue, Buffalo NY 14213

Owner

  • Rich Products. Previous owner All Nations House of Prayer
  • Rich Products' headquarters is one block west, at 1200 Niagara Street. This is a complex of two historic buildings, early factories of E.R. Thomas of Thomas Flyer fame and Glenn Curtiss, pioneering engine and aeroplane manufacturer. The company is the primary landowner in this neighborhood.
  • Rich Products owns the parcel at 96 West Ferry Street, adjacent to this property on the west.
  • They also own the large parcel across Ferry Street, their former manufacturing plant, demolished in 2018.

Physical Description

  • Medina sandstone church.
  • Romanesque style, rounded arches at tops of windows and doors.
  • James Napora: Constructed of brick with a facade of Medina Sandstone, the building is more notable for its parts than it is as a whole. The main facade, with its coupled windows, features exquisite detailing especially in the corbels.

Current Condition

  • Vacant and secured.

History

  • The congregation was founded in 1831 as the First Presbyterian Church of Black Rock.
  • The church was built in 1889-1890.
  • Per Gwen Howard of the Preservation Board, the church was designed by Edward Austin Kent.
  • From James Napora, Houses of Worship:
    West Avenue Presbyterian Church - 1889-1890
    104 West Ferry @ West (NE)
    Architect Unknown
    Founded 13 September, 1831
    One year older than the city itself, Jabez B. Hyde, of the First Presbyterian Church now on Pennsylvania Street, established the First Presbyterian Church of Black Rock in September, 1831. As a result of a series of revival meetings conducted by noted evangelist, Charles G. Finney, the religious zeal of Black Rock residents was aroused. No longer content with gathering in private homes or travelling two and one half miles to the First Presbyterian Church on Shelton Square (destroyed), they needed a place of their own to worship in. With nineteen charter members, the congregation began meeting in a small red frame schoolhouse sited on a public square which was located approximately at what is now the intersection of West and Auburn Avenues.
    The following year, the congregation secured the services of the Rev. Hugh Hammill as their first full time minister. Under his leadership, they began holding regular afternoon meetings in the Union Meeting House on Breckenridge Street. In 1847, with the users of the meeting house constructing their own places of worship, the members of the First Presbyterian Chrch of Black Rock purchased all outstanding shares in it, thus becoming the unconditional owner of the building.
    Membership in the congregation lagged somewhat during the following years as a number of factors kept people from joining. By 1870, conditions in the area of the church began to improve, resulting in an increase in membership. In 1870, the congregation became known as the Breckenridge Street Presbyterian Church, further reinforcing its ownership of the building. They proceeded to repair the building, improving it as a place of worship.
    In 1873, leadership of the congregation passed to Rev. William Alfred Gay. He could have passed into history as did the previous leaders if it were not for the fact that he was also an inventor as well as a preacher. During his tenure here, he is credited with inventing the microphone and being the first person to use it for broadcast in a public gathering.
    In 1888, the congregation called Rev. W. C. McGarvey to lead them. Unwilling as he was to accept the position, he did so only after the congregation agreed to his request that their house of worship be sold and a new one constructed. By the end of the year, they had sold the original Meeting House and proceeded to construct a temporary church, known as the "Wigwam" on West Avenue.
    On land donated to the congregation by General Peter Porter in 1848, they began to construct the building occupying the site today. They placed the cornerstone in November, 1889 and dedicated the completed, $13,500 building on 2 February, 1891. They had originally intended the building to be a chapel to a more substantial house of worship planned for the corner of West Ferry and West Avenue. To reflect the move to their new home, on 6 May, 1889 the congregation adopted the name West Avenue Presbyterian Church.
    Constructed of brick with a facade of Medina Sandstone, the building is more notable for its parts than it is as a whole. The main facade, with its coupled windows, features exquisite detailing especially in the corbels. The tower contains a bell from a fortress in Monroe, Virginia. It was donated to the congregation after the original bell from the Breckenridge Street Church was stolen during storage. The bell tolled for the death of Lincoln while in its original location.

Recent Events and Actions Taken

  • Purchased by neighbor Rich Products, December 2020.
  • Because of Rich's spotty preservation record, there's reason to worry about the future of this building.
  • Rich Products demolished 1155 Niagara Street along with their original manufacturing plant.

Other Pertinent Facts

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Added 2020-12-18 • Last changed 2021-01-20