St. Ann Church To Be Razed

August 18, 2013 Updated Aug 26, 2013 at 3:13 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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August 18, 2013 Updated Aug 26, 2013 at 3:13 PM EDT

Multi-million dollar reconstruction price tag deemed too expensive

Faced with severe interior and exterior deterioration, and re-construction costs estimated at between $8 million and $12 million, the Diocese of Buffalo has found it necessary to raze St. Ann Church on Broadway in Buffalo.

"We plan to preserve and relocate the Shrine of St. Ann and other valuable, artistically significant artifacts currently within the church," said Bishop Richard J. Malone. "In another sacred space, longtime devotions to St. Ann will continue, and the heritage of this historic parish will be preserved and honored."

Bishop Malone consulted with the diocesan Presbyteral Council, in accord with Canon Law, on June 18, 2013, with the council concurring with the professional assessment of the building structure and supporting the proposal to relegate St. Ann Church to profane use, which means the church will no longer be used for divine worship.

The bishop gave the official decree to Father Roy Herberger during an Aug. 14 meeting at the Catholic Center. Father Herberger is pastor of SS. Columba-Brigid Parish in Buffalo, the parish into which St. Ann Parish merged in 2007.

In a letter at Masses the weekend of Aug. 17-18, Bishop Malone wrote, "It is always a sad day when we have to acknowledge that a church can no longer be used, and sadder still when the church must be razed. But St. Ann Church, and the parish life that has thrived there for more than 150 years, has made its mark on the history of Catholicism in Western New York, and more importantly, on the lives of so many who have worshiped there. That is to be remembered and celebrated now and into the future."

Parishioners were also notified about St. Ann's at weekend Masses at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo, where some former St. Ann parishioners are members. The effective date of the decree is Aug. 19, 2013.

In light of the decision and especially for pastoral reasons, St. Ann's property may no longer be an alternate worship or meeting site for SS. Columba-Brigid Parish, with the final Mass celebrated on St. Ann property on Aug. 19.

Demolition is expected later this year. Once the site is cleared and transformed into green space, it will be available for future development.

An engineering report released in April 2013 found significant restoration work would be needed throughout the church, but especially on the east and west front towers in order to stabilize the 130 year old Neo-Gothic style church. Design and construction flaws of the original church have resulted in a building less durable than other churches of the period.

Arbour Construction Management and Siracuse Engineers, both based in Buffalo, were commissioned to study the condition of the church and offer their recommendations after all activities at St. Ann's were suspended on Apr. 30, 2012. The findings of the engineering study were presented on Apr. 30, 2013, to Father Herberger, his parish trustees and a representative of the St. Ann Revitalization Committee.

The engineering study found that over the years, major capital projects at St. Ann's were scaled back and preventative maintenance was postponed, resulting in an increased rate of deterioration.

Despite much of the stonework being in fairly good condition, the high gutter has numerous leaks resulting in water intrusion into the exterior masonry walls, causing damage to interior walls and windows, and rusting nails which attach lath and plaster to stone walls. The cupola between the two transepts needs refurbishing or complete removal before a dangerous condition occurs.

There is a rotted wooden roof in the clock room of the East Tower, and finials have shifted outward resulting in cracks in each of the arches. Walkway railings have become unattached due to shifting stone and extensive cracking in four corner buttresses.

On the West Tower, problems are general and widespread and the extremely poor condition presents a hazard to the area surrounding the church. Most of the top 80 feet is beyond repair. Bonding of the exterior face stone on the tower walls has failed with approximately 200 square feet of the south wall of the tower having separated from the rubble infill. An attempt to discover the condition of the infill beyond this section of the wall was deemed too dangerous because the infill has disintegrated into very damp soft sand and stone powder due to water infiltration. Corner buttresses are badly cracked and there is real possibility that large portions of face stone and corner buttresses could fall onto the lower roof, shattering enough of the wood roof to allow stones to fall into the interior seating area.

Excessive water intrusion to the Belfry on the West Tower has badly rotted the wood in many areas; wood and louvers are badly deteriorated and surrounding masonry is badly cracked and displaced; exterior corners exhibit active movement of facing stone and completely ineffective mortar joints.

St. Ann Parish merged into SS. Columba-Brigid Parish on September 1, 2007, with the intention of using only the SS. Columba-Brigid site (St. Mary of Sorrow Parish was also part of the merger). That was temporarily delayed during which time a weekly Sunday Mass was celebrated at St. Ann's until Apr. 29, 2012.