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State grant to help restore 1897 tower of church on Symphony Circle

The 163-foot-tall church tower that has stood like a beacon over the Symphony Circle neighborhood for more than a century has been sorely in need of repair.

Now it's going to get it.

A state grant will provide the part of the money to restore and repoint the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo, which is a National Historic Landmark..

Architect E.B. Green designed the  American Romanesque-style tower, which was the last part of the church to be completed in 1897.

A view, across the reflecting pool at Kleinhans Music Hall, of First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo. Architect E.B. Green designed the American Romanesque-style tower, which was the last part of the church to be completed in 1897. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The church, formed during the War of 1812, is Buffalo's first and oldest religious organization, pre-dating the city's incorporation. The tower was designed to be an homage to H.H. Richardson's twin towers -- now known as the Richardson Olmsted Complex -- located two miles away at the northern end of Richmond Avenue.

"It's a huge accomplishment for the church and for the community," said Ryan Nadbrzuch, chairman of One Symphony Circle, set up in 2010 to plan and raise money for the preservation, restoration and maintenance of the church. "That tower should be secure for another 100 years."

A grant of $328,400 grant from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation comes from a special fund used for preserving, rehabilitating and restoring historic properties.

The balance of the $437,920 cost will be paid through donations and grants. Construction on the tower, which was stabilized in 2011, is planned for spring 2018.

"This has been the focus of the board's work for the last five years, and we have been incredibly successful in fundraising in the community and getting our message out and, apparently, that resonated," board member Barbara O'Neill said.

"We are just thrilled because this grant will ensure that the tower will be here for future generations."

The church board is already turning its sights to the next big  project -- replacing the church's slate roof, expected to cost about $1 million. The fundraising and capital campaign is expected to kick off later this year.

Along with the First Presbyterian congregation, the church is home to a handful of community-based organizations -- Buffalo Urban Mission Partnership, Explore Buffalo, Houghton College Buffalo, Village Church and Native Offering Crop Share.



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