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State funds to help two churches repair, restore historic buildings

Two landmark churches in Buffalo will receive state money for significant repairs and restoration work on their historic buildings.

The state's Environmental Protection Fund will provide $526,796 to Trinity Episcopal Church on Delaware Avenue and $200,000 to Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church at Lafayette and Elmwood avenues.

Representatives from the two churches announced the grant awards this week.

Trinity will use the money to repair or replace the roofs on its three buildings -- the main sanctuary, built in 1886; Christ Chapel, built in 1870; and Trinity Place, built in 1905. Drainage and grading problems that have caused water damage over the years will be corrected.

The main church's exterior foundation on the north side and its northeast facade will be fixed. The water-damaged undercroft also will be restored to usable space.

The congregation, while growing, would have struggled to raise the money on its own, said the Rev. R. Cameron Miller, rector.

Church members already had raised $1.2 million in 2003 for improvements, Miller noted.

"We're about at our capacity to be able to support [the property] and do the things that are central to our mission," he said.

The church has "been very creative about inviting the community into our building" and was grateful that the larger community could chip in and help preserve the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Miller said.

At Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the $200,000 grant will go toward repairing and rehabilitating walls, windows and roofs, and making the building accessible to people with physical disabilities. Work is scheduled to begin next spring.

"The state grant money will be used to complete crucial repairs to the facade of the church, which is literally a cornerstone of the Elmwood Village," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, who assisted in securing the funding. "This is a building which must be preserved for its historic value, but we also must find ways to help move it into the future."

The church's dwindling congregation is moving ahead on a plan to convert a large portion of its 60,000-square-foot Romanesque revival complex into market-rate apartments and community space.

The plan, proposed about a year ago, is eligible for federal tax credits. Organizers are waiting for an answer on whether state historic preservation tax credits also could be applied to the project.

The congregation, which has opened its facility to a wide variety of community groups over the years, hopes to be able to build the apartments and keep space for worship and for community use.

"We're kind of becoming the town hall of the Elmwood Village," said the Rev. Drew Ludwig, the church's pastor. "We're the gathering space for the neighborhood."


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