The History of Our Lady of Lourdes Church

Its origins trace back to the first Catholic Congregation in Buffalo

By George Thomas Apfel and Paul W. Apfel

I have a personal interest in the abandoned Catholic Church at the corner of Main and Best Streets as this was where I was baptized and where my older brothers attended school and were altar boys. The church was clearly visible from the bedroom window of our house on Ellicott Street; it was only a block away. Our Lady of Lourdes was more than a house of worship, it was the neighborhood community center, offering a place to keep kids off the street. It did that with a combination of sporting and social events and even had bowling lanes in the basement, one of the few churches with such a luxury.
In chronicling the history of Our Lady of Lourdes, the very beginnings of this parish go back to the very first Catholic congregation in the city of Buffalo. In 1832 a mixture of German, French, and Irish immigrants all worked together to build and dedicate the Lamb of God Church. The construction of the church was about the only time the diverse ethnic groups would work together, as immediately the Germans complained of the pastor not allowing them to manage the financial affairs of the church. In 1837, the Irish members seceded from the church to establish St. Patrick’s Church, where they could worship in the English language. In 1843, a group of recently arrived German immigrants, unhappy with the attitude of the Board of Trustees, left to form St. Mary’s Church. In 1850, the French members left to form St. Peter’s French Catholic Church.1 The French built St. Peter’s on the present site of the Hotel Lafayette on Lafayette Square. The congregation outgrew this building as the city boomed towards the end of the 19th century, the little old church was falling to decay and the site was valuable for business. The congregation finally approved of the site selected by Bishop Quigley and the pastor, at the corner of Main and Best Streets.2

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, August 2008