St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral - Table of Contents

Medina sandstone  - St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral
139 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY

From the Archives #27
January, 2014

National Historic Landmark - Nomination

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St. Paul's Official Home Page

Of the 21 stone buildings nominated, six were chosen for induction into the Medina Sandstone Society’s Hall of Fame in Medina, New York on December 12, 2013. St. Paul’s Cathedral was among the six inductees: the other buildings so honored were the Armory and St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Medina, Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, the former St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, and the Richardson/Olmsted Complex in Buffalo.  All six buildings were constructed using the famous Medina sandstone (400 million years in the making) from the nineteenth century stone quarries of Orleans County, New York. Representing St. Paul’s Cathedral at the ceremony were our parish historian, Martha Neri, and Father Don Huber. St. Paul’s Cathedral was the oldest of this year’s inductees (1849-51).
At one time, there were more than a hundred stone quarries scattered along the Erie Canal near the villages of Medina, Albion, Hulberton and Holley. The first quarry was opened in 1837 in the vicinity of Medina. In 1849, two members of the St. Paul’s Building Committee and Richard Upjohn traveled north to ascertain if any quarry would be able to furnish enough red sandstone with which to build the new St. Paul’s Church.

Lockport gray limestone had been initially considered for the project, but was rejected as it would have added $4,000 to the cost of construction.  A stone quarry of approximately three acres near Hulberton, Town of Murray, just north of the Erie Canal, was found to be adequate. It was purchased in 1850 for $272.72 ($7,395.00 in today’s dollars). The stone blocks were cut and floated down to Buffalo on canal barges at approximately $5.00 per ton ($136.00).
The vestry voted to sell the Hulberton quarry in 1861 to Mr. Thomas McGuire on condition that he deliver 362 cords* of stone by September of that year. This stone would be used to complete the spire on the Pearl Street bell tower in 1870. Medina sandstone certainly proved its mettle during the horrific gas explosion and conflagration of 1888 which gutted the interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The exterior walls suffered minor damage and only small areas of the walls required repairs. 
For almost a century, the Medina sandstone quarries of Orleans County had provided enough stone blocks to build hundreds of significant buildings throughout the United States and foreign countries. It is even said that parts of Buckingham Palace were built using sandstone from Western New York. By 1900, there were only 43 stone quarries still in operation in Orleans County. And in 1920, the quarries were all but gone when concrete became the building material of choice.                                                                                          

*A cord is 128 cubic feet: 4 ft. high x 4 ft. deep x 8 ft. long.

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

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2014
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