St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral - Table of Contents

Upjohn's Model - St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral
139 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY

From the Archives #04
January, 2011

By Alice M. Evans Bartlett and G. Hunter Bartlett, History of St. Paul’s, Buffalo, N. Y. (Buffalo:  , 1903), 392.

National Historic Landmark - Nomination

Visitor Information: (716) 855-0900
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During the 24 years it took to complete St. Paul’s (1849-73), a three dimensional wooden model stood in the narthex of the church depicting architect Richard Upjohn’s unfinished masterpiece.

The model was complete in every detail and was made to a scale of one-quarter inch to the foot. The replica extends three feet seven and three-quarter inches from the east wall of the chancel to the bell tower, equivalent to 175 feet. The height of the bell tower is four feet eight and one-quarter inches, or 225 feet, which was the height as originally planned by Mr. Upjohn. Sand was added to the brown paint, imitating the Medina sandstone that would be used for the exterior walls. However, for economic reasons, there were a few minor changes made after the model was completed: some crockets and other details were omitted from the two spires. Also, the four small windows in the south porch are missing on the model as they had not been in Upjohn’s original blueprints.
In an 1854 letter from the building committee to Mr. Upjohn we learn the name of the man who built our model. In that letter reference is made to “the model Mr. Riker had made.” Thirty-one-year-old George Riker was a master carpenter and the foreman of St. Paul’s interior woodwork. Unfortunately, his work was lost in the catastrophic fire of 1888.

Riker’s partnership with Upjohn did not end in Buffalo. They worked together on a number of churches in the East, and Riker’s beautiful workmanship can still be seen in his native New Jersey and the New York City area. George Riker died in West Bloomfield, New Jersey in 1904.
When St. Paul’s Church neared completion in 1850, the stone masons no longer needed the miniature model, and it was summarily dismantled, stored under the bell tower stairway and soon forgotten. Miraculously, it survived the gas explosion and fire in which the entire interior was destroyed. Around 1895 a parishioner, Frank Gedies, found the forgotten model, and with great patience and skill restored it. Mr. Gedies, who was one of St. Paul’s bell ringers, also carved a beautiful cherub face on the stone lintel of one of the tower room doors. Referring to Mr. Riker’s wooden model, Alice and G. Hunter Bartlett wrote in their history of St. Paul’s Cathedral the following:
It is to be hoped that this interesting reminder of  the past will be properly preserved as a “historical document,” and that it may be placed where it can be readily seen and examined.

George Riker’s model of St. Paul’s Church is presently housed in the south porch off Cathedral Park.

Special thanks to Wayne Mori for making this archive avilable for reprinting.

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