By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Three large stained glass windows looked upon by generations of North Tonawanda Catholics at Ascension Church will continue to inspire former members at their new home on Niagara Falls Boulevard.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday voted 4 to 0 in favor of allowing the windows to be removed from the defunct Ascension building on Kiel Street, and to be installed in a planned new building at St. Jude the Apostle parish.
Because Ascension is on the city’s registry of historic places, such alterations are normally not allowed. But when the church closed, members were rolled into a combined congregation at St. Jude (formerly St. Albert the Great).
This way, proponents say, displaced Ascension members, as well as the general public, can still enjoy the windows.
Though the commission had already voted to allow the exceptional move in recent weeks, the 3 to 1 vote didn’t count as per the commission’s bylaws. Three members at the time had abstained, mainly because they were members of the church themselves.
Commission member Greg Schnitzer said all three who abstained took part in a new vote during a special meeting Wednesday to allow the removal of the windows.
Not everyone is completely in favor of the change, however. Though commission Chairman Tim Contangelo said none of the seven members of the commission were vehemently against it, concerns have been raised over the precedent that could be set.
“It’s a landmark building and that’s what the issue has been,” Contangelo said following the first vote. “They can’t do anything with a landmark without proper approval.”
Of those who abstained the first time around, both he and Schnitzer said because they have no financial stake in the change, their bowing out wasn’t necessary to begin with.
“The people who abstained really didn’t have to,” Schinitzer said. “Two of them were members of the church.”
Those who voted Wednesday, he said, were the only members able to attend.
The commission did add some stipulations to the decision, however. Firstly, the windows must be on public display within the city. Secondly, they must be replaced with colored windows by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, which is currently marketing the building at auction.
Schnitzer said his concerns were allayed that the windows could be left in storage if St. Jude’s lingers on the new building.
“These will be on display. They’re not going to be stored. (St. Jude) has a lot of money already. They’re really on their way.”