Buffalo's Canisius High School, whose landlocked urban campus has inhibited growth for decades, has acquired two high-profile Delaware Avenue properties for expansion.
The Rev. James P. Higgins, Canisius president, confirmed Thursday that the all-male Catholic prep school now owns a pair of turn-of-the-century mansions, located at 1193 and 891 Delaware Ave.
"We've gone from being a campus with no room for growth to having many, many options. We are in a very fortunate and exciting position," Higgins said.
The school's as-yet-untapped real estate portfolio also includes two residences along Cleveland Avenue that the school bought in late 2005 and a 65-acre parcel in West Seneca, purchased in mid-2005 as a potential site for athletic facilities.
The private school has spent more than $2.1 million in the last 18 months on the five properties.
"These were all ownership opportunities that only come along every 25 or 50 years, and they all came along at once," Higgins said. "Timing is everything, and God has been good to us."
The school has retained Kideney Architects of Amherst to develop a master plan that will include reviews of all the new sites, as well as a study of the school's buildings and their uses.
"We recognize the unique opportunity in front of us. We're doing our due diligence to ensure we make the best use of these properties for the young gentleman who will attend Canisius in the future, our faculty and the community," Higgins added.
Canisius is at 1180 Delaware Ave. south of Gates Circle. The school purchased 1193 Delaware Ave., a mansion that has been operating as a daycare facility, for $620,000 on Nov. 29. The building, across Delaware from the school, had been owned by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
Built in 1911, the 20-room, 8,000-square-foot mansion had been owned by Stuart Welch, founder of the Welch Grape Co. The now-idle structure had housed Guardian Angel Day Care from the 1950s through June 2005.
Ionic stone pillars flank the entrance, which is topped by a wrought iron porch. A sculpture of an angel, its right hand raised, graces the front. Its interior features extensive original mahogany and cherry paneling, 12-foot ceilings and hand-carved fireplaces.
The building at 891 Delaware Ave., three blocks south of Canisius, was constructed as a residence for businessman Orin Foster in 1905.
Now vacant, the 18,000-square-foot stone structure was the longtime headquarters of DeRose Food Brokers.
In a Dec. 22 transaction, owner Michael DeRose conveyed the building, which has an assessed value of more than $700,000, to Canisius for $1.
"We are fortunate stewards of a beautiful and regal property," Higgins said. "We are deeply grateful to Michael DeRose for his philanthropic actions."
In a way, the school's ownership of the two former Delaware Avenue mansions is history repeating itself.
The current campus, at Delaware and Cleveland avenues, was built as a home for Marine Midland Bank founder George F. Rand.
It later served as the Buffalo Consistory of the Masons.
Founded in 1870, Canisius moved from downtown Buffalo to that site in 1944.
In other recent acquisitions, Canisius paid $588,000 in June 2005 for a 65-acre parcel on Clinton Street in West Seneca for athletic facilities. In fall 2005, the school paid $529,000 for 44 Cleveland and $447,000 for 50 Cleveland.