St. Barbara Church to be razed

Mon, Jan 31st 2011 01:00 pm

The Diocese of Buffalo has announced that St. Barbara Church, 551 Ridge Rd., Lackawanna, will be demolished.

At the time of its construction in 1930, the church was described as, "a modern improvisation upon the old Romanesque style ...leading to the evolution of ecclesiastical architecture distinctly America." Featuring a 154 foot bell tower which is one of the tallest structures in Lackawanna, the yellow brick building has been plagued with structural problems almost as soon as it was dedicated in 1931 by Bishop William Turner.

A detailed engineering review found that when St. Barbara Church was constructed, the use of precast concrete in lieu of limestone was cutting edge technology, and was used to save cost. The strength and durability of brick and precast concrete is significantly less than those of limestone. What has been proven over time is that initial cost savings never envisioned the life cycle cost implications of this inferior product substitution (the church has undergone significant masonry restoration in 30 year increments since its construction).

Significant water absorption and retention is present throughout the walls, windows, doors and chimney of the church.

The load bearing brick arches were built with inadequate thrust resistance and as a result, have rotated and split open; the arches would need to be removed and replaced in total, and rebuilt with new reinforced arch end supports, at significant cost.

The upper 62 feet of the bell tower is unstable and in need of immediate demolition, as show in the inset photo to the left. It is believed that the bell tower may have been struck by lightning in late 2009 or early 2010.

On Jan. 19, Apollo Dismantling Corp. of Niagara Falls applied received a demolition permit from the ciity of Lackawanna. Arric Corp. of Depew began asbestos abatement in late January, which will be followed by demolition of the structure, which should be completed sometime in March.

St. Barbara Parish was founded in 1903 to meet the spiritual needs of new immigrants from Poland who were moving to Lackawanna to work in the steel mills. A new church was constructed in 1930-31 at a cost of about $180,000 with a seating capacity of about 1,000.  In February 2008, St. Barbara Parish merged with St. Hyacinth and St. Michael the Archangel parishes in Lackawanna, and Our Lady of Grace in Woodlawn. The new parish, Queen of Angels, is located at the St. Michael worship site.

Most of the religious artifacts from the interior of the church were sold to other Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo. The stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross (canvas paintings), the pews and the pipe organ will be removed before demolition.

Once the site is cleared, it will be converted into a shovel-ready site which is for sale.

In November 2009, the former St. Barbara Church hall was purchased by Catholic Charities for use as a food pantry. In March 2010, the former rectory was sold for use as a single-family residence. St. Barbara School closed in 1980.  

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