The decision to tear down the 60-year-old cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo was “agonizing, but dictated by reality” according to Bishop Edward Head, who, on Nov. 25, 1975, announced that the church building would host its last Masses on Sunday, Nov. 30.
The building at the northeast corner of Delaware Avenue and Utica Street would then be closed and razed, based on the findings of an eight-month study completed by structural engineers, architects and contractors. The report set the price tag to fix the church at $2.2 million, which adjusted for inflation is about $10.1 million in 2019.
Bishop Head said the doomed cathedral was the victim of either “bad design or bad construction.” The report said the 4-inch thick marble slabs on the outside of the building were not properly bonded to the underlying brick, and Buffalo’s weather made the problem even worse.
Between the time the study was concluded and the decision to close was made, parts of the ceiling had caved in and areas inside the church became dangerous and off limits.
The front-page story of Western New York Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, admitted that architectural problems had plagued the church since its opening in 1915.
The building’s north and south gables were reconstructed when the building was only seven years old. In 1927, the bell towers were removed with the hope that it would stall the building’s sagging and sinking, but the structural problems were much deeper.
As of 1975, more money had been spent on structure repairs for the building than had been spent to build it in the first place.
Bishop Charles Colton led the charge to build the new cathedral to “keep abreast of the times, and to keep pace with the onward march of our beautiful and rapidly growing city.” In 1912, 22,000 Buffalo Catholics marched in the parade that culminated with the laying of the cornerstone of the seat of the diocese, with many of the city’s poorest donating pennies, nickels and dimes for the building of the church.
At the time the cathedral was closed, there was some thought that a new church – if not a new cathedral—would be built on the site. The following July, however, it was announced that the Diocese of Buffalo would build a federally subsidized 100-unit apartment complex at the corner of Delaware and Utica.
Timon Tower, named after Buffalo’s first Catholic bishop, still stands there today.