A Brief History of St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, located at the very
heart of the greater Buffalo metropolitan community, just celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary of its founding on February 12, 2017.
The theme of the bicentennial event was:
“Celebrating the past. Embracing the future.”
During the two centuries of St. Paul’s history, four distinct stages of development can be identified. The incorporation of St. Paul’s Church in Buffalo on February 10, 1817, barely three years after the burning of the village by the British during the War of 1812, began the Church’s first phase. In 1819, a building site was donated to the young congregation by the Holland Land Company, and Buffalo’s first permanent house of worship was soon erected. The building was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hobart, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New York, on February 25, 1821. It was a wooden structure and remained at this site until 1849 when it was sold and moved to another location.
A major milestone and one denoting the Church’s second period of growth was the consecration in 1851 of the new, sandstone edifice, designed by Richard Upjohn, also the architect of such notable churches as Trinity Church, New York City. The year 1866 marked St. Paul’s designation by Bishop Arthur C. Coxe as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Western New York. Tragically, on May 22, 1888, the interior of the Cathedral was destroyed by an explosion and fire. The Vestry, on that very day, voted to rebuild St. Paul’s anew from the ashes and rubble left by the conflagration.
The restored St. Paul’s Cathedral of 1890 inaugurated the third period of its development, bridging the transition from Victorian nineteenth century to the rapid technical advancements and social changes of the twentieth century. It was during this period that our Church determined, despite surrounding urban changes, to remain a downtown community. The ten decades since the centennial year of 1917 have witnessed wars, booms, a depression, the decline, and the recent resurgence of downtown Buffalo; all of which have presented new challenges and opportunities to the membership of the Cathedral. In 1988, National Landmark Status was awarded to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The fourth stage of church growth began recently with the opening of the Flickinger Ministry Center at 4 Cathedral Park in the fall of 2014, and with the placing of both the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture and the Garden of Love (an outdoor donation site for winter clothing) near Main Street in 2015. Through such accomplishments, the people of St. Paul’s Cathedral have proven their commitment to the continuation of its long history of social service, ecumenicalism and spiritual ministry in the metropolitan area.