Polonia Re-Cap: Domes to Replace Spires?
One of two important agenda items (see post below) for today's Buffaloâ€™s Preservation Board meeting is an issue sure to catch peopleâ€™s attention: Should the Darul-Uloom Al Madania Mosque on Sobieski Street be allowed to replace the historic spires with fiberglass domes? The mosque occupies the former Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, and is a City of Buffalo designated landmark.
According to concept drawings submitted by the mosque, the spiresâ€”which were removed last spring after a windstorm under an emergency permit granted by Dick Tobeâ€”are to be replaced with gold-colored fiberglass domes, atop fiberglass bases, atop the existing brick towers. Apparently, copper is also proposed for some elements of the project.
The mosque occupies the former Holy Mother of the Rosary Polish National Cathedral, which relocated to Lancaster in the 1990s. According to James Napora, the congregation also relocated much of the religious artwork, including twenty murals and stations of the cross by the noted Buffalo religious artist Jozef Mazur, to the new cathedral, and sold the building to the members of the mosque. The mosque has established an extremely active congregation and presence in the neighborhood. Many members of the congregation have relocated nearby, and the congregation has recently partnered with the nearby Matt Urban Center on a housing proposal to bring rehab and appropriate-scale new construction to nearby blocks. The congregation is also using several buildings in the vicinity for religious education. In September, one of the principals was the target of disciplinary action over sex allegations.
The history of the building dates to the late 19th-century, according to Joe Haden. â€śIn 1895 a group of parishioners from St. Adalbert's, dissatisfied with the lack of Polish representation in the Buffalo Roman Catholic Diocese, formed their own Independent Catholic Church. Around the same time similar groups in Chicago, Cleveland, and Pennsylvania were forming their own churches as well. In 1906, under the leadership of Bishop Stephen Kaminski, they built a new Church on Sobieski and Sycamore Streets.â€ť The church served as the cathedral for the western New York and Pittsburgh diocese of the new independent church.
In 2001, the building suffered a devastating fire which gutted much of the interior. Following 9/11 by just a month, initial fears that the fire may have been deliberately set were unfounded when it was determined to have been caused by a workman with a welding torch. The interior was subsequently renovated, but not restored to its original appearance. Other modifications to the building include the addition of several crescents to the exterior in reflection of its new use as a mosque.
The preservation of Buffaloâ€™s religious architecture has been much in the news this year, and has been the subject of several initiatives. The preservation issues raised by the proposed changes to this religious landmark are not cut and dried, and several perspectives may legitimately apply. What do you think?
This issue will be discussed at the Buffalo Preservation Board, Thursday, December 11, at 3PM, Room 901, City Hall. Also on the agenda will be over forty demolitions proposed by the City of Buffalo.