When realtors tried to enter details about the St. Columban Center into the Multiple Listing Service, the computer program wouldn't accept it.
Apparently 60 bedrooms and 13 baths are not the norm for a single-family house.
The possibilities are endless for the vast Greek Gothic mansion that the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is trying to sell on 15 acres on Lake Erie in the Town of Evans. It could be a home, inn, bed and breakfast, destination boutique wedding center, conference center or boarding school, to name a few.
And the price has just been reduced from $1.9 million to $1.595 million.
"It's got everything you need and then some," said realtor David Doerr of Realty USA.
The 27,000-square-foot mansion has two dining rooms, a large kitchen, conference rooms, libraries, a chapel and an elevator.
"It's so unique that the multiple listing system rejected it when we tried to put it in," he added.
The three-story mansion at 6892 Lake Shore Road, about 18 miles south of downtown Buffalo, was known as Suncliff when it was built in 1924 as a summer home for Buffalo businessman Hans Schmidt and his family. Schmidt was the owner of Schoellkopf & Co., a large tannery.
Schmidt was known as a leading tanner of sheep leather, according to "Successful American." Born in Germany, he came to Buffalo shortly after finishing college in 1882 and began working for Jacob Schoellkopf. He married Schoellkopf's daughter, Helen, in 1893, and they had three children. Schmidt eventually came into ownership of the business after Jacob Schoellkopf died. He belonged to the Buffalo Club, Ellicott Club and several German societies, according to "Successful American."
The Columban Laymen's League purchased the property in 1947 for $50,000 from Mr. and Mrs. Joseph G. Fischer, according to a history of the retreat house posted on a wall of the center. The Columban Fathers, who ran a seminary in Silver Creek, initially staffed the retreat center before it was turned over to the diocese. The first retreat director, the Rev. John P. O'Brien, and another priest were buried on the grounds near the large crucifix, but they were reinterred at the St. Columban’s retirement home in Silver Creek about 10 years ago.
The diocese put the 15-acre property up for sale last spring, after deciding the retreats that were held there could be conducted through Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. Priced at $1.9 million, the property did not sell and the price recently was reduced.
"Bishop Malone and diocesan leaders review operations and assets on a regular basis. In this case, the St. Columban Center is a prime piece of waterfront property and holds significant value," said George Richert, spokesman for the diocese.
The original 17,000-square-foot mansion, built in 1924, had 14 bedrooms on its second and third floors, six fireplaces, six boilers and two garages holding a total of five cars. A stately promenade lined with trees connects the house to the 550 feet of lake frontage. There are steps to the beach. The 10,000-square-foot two-story addition, built in 1959, has an additional 46 small bedrooms.
The facility, which has beds in every bedroom and chairs and tables in the dining rooms, is still being used for events until it is sold, according to the diocese. Furnishings in the grand rooms on the first floor are sparse, with several religious statues remaining in the room that was used as a chapel.
It is a unique parcel with lots of amenities.
"That is our challenge and our opportunity," Doerr said, adding about potential buyers: "You only need one."
Story topics: Shared