By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette — We have learned about the early days at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church and all the buildings in its complex; the school, rectory, convent and garage. According to Wikipedia: “the church is built of random course stone walls and has a steeply pitched, slate shingled gable roof. It features a central façade tower with spire and Romanesque Revival detailing.”
Information in an article by Stephanie Smith published in Preservation Magazine on March 24, 2008, stated it was in October of 2007 when the Diocese of Buffalo announced its long-awaited decisions on the closure of area churches. Holy Trinity was to be a part of the restructuring and would be merged with four other area churches into the newly created Divine Mercy Church at 24th and Niagara streets in the former St. Stanislaus parish. Dwindling population in the area could no longer support the number of neighborhood churches throughout the city.
Tom Yots, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission at this time stated: “We saw (the church) as threatened.” The church stood within walking distance of the famous falls and its nearby casino. The land around this area was purchased by a developer who already had demolished other historic buildings for future development. Yots stated “there was a tremendous upswell in the community to do landmarking.” Many parishioners provided the historic documents and information necessary during the application process. One of these, Vivian Pokryzk, is quoted in Stephanie Smith’s article stating “It was a wonderful process. This parish is one of the last complexes of such caliber in the city.”
Easter Sunday, 2008, at Holy Trinity Church marked the last time the congregation would observe Mass in the 1906 masonry church, noted Smith. The Rev. Slawomir Stok was the last pastor, serving at Holy Trinity since 2003. However, the Niagara Falls City Council voted unanimously in February of that year to landmark the church, giving it hope of a second life. Chris Robbins, chair of the council at the time, stated they would work closely with the congregation to help find a buyer for the property. The entire complex located at 1419 Falls St., was purchased in 2009 by the nonprofit group, Niagara Heritage of Hope and Service and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. All of this transpired during and following the period of restructuring by the Diocese of Buffalo.
The website, Historic Holy Trinity, created and updated by Marg Domagalski, who serves as president lists its mission as follows: “In the spirit of our Roman Catholic faith and teachings, our mission is to make a positive difference in the local and visiting community by providing educational services, professional support, social opportunities, and spiritual support and instruction. The complex shall foster activities that support the broader public community coming to the Western New York area.”
The website lists its goal is to help others in our community and provide family friendly events year round. They offer gated grounds for outdoor activities; historic tours on Fridays (June-September) and by appointment throughout the year. The building is also available to concerts and benefits. Also, retreats, presentations, cultural events, wakes, and prayer services/memorials. Information can be obtained through its website Historic Holy Trinity or calling 299-0799.
There is also a history museum on the premises where many in the polish community have donated family treasurers, keepsakes and historical photographs and documents. Many former parishioners like Stanley Slominski volunteer at the Donation Distribution Center which is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the school building. (Use 14th Street door) for the sale and collection of clean, gently used items of clothing, household items and furniture.
Marg told me the organization is a 100 percent volunteer-based group and they totally rely on donations from the community. They want to preserve the buildings and its historical significance and want to give back to the community. They partner with Heart and Soul who refer their clients to the Donation Distribution Center and others.
The church will be decorated for the Christmas season and will be open on December 6, 13 and the 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. She noted the original manger scene will be in place once again. The public is welcome to attend.
So the volunteer spirit caries on in their treasured building which I visited a few years ago. I must go back again.Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.