695 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
(716) 885-2136

Our Church

The UU Church of Buffalo – A continuing history...

The Unitarian and Universalist Churches in this city were both organized in 1831 when Buffalo was still a village. The two congregations merged in 1953, when the First Unitarian Church of Buffalo and Universalist Church of the Messiah joined to begin worshiping as the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo at 695 Elmwood Avenue. Nationally, the two denominations merged in 1961.

Buffalo industrialist and philanthropist John J. Albright sold the land for the Elmwood site to the Unitarian Church at a bargain price, and the building was erected in 1904-06. The architect, Edward Austin Kent, designed a building in the Gothic Revival style, with the appearance of an English country parish church. The interior of the sanctuary, featuring walls of Indiana limestone and a great oak hammerbeam ceiling, has been called “one of the best Arts and Crafts spaces in Buffalo.” The church is a locally designated historic landmark, and efforts are currently underway to achieve state and federal historic landmark recognition.

With construction that was completed in 2001, the building was made accessible to those with special needs, with the addition of the “Garden Entrance” to the church Parish Hall. An elevator and accessible restrooms were included in the renovations.

The grounds of the church, resembling an old-style English perennial garden, are a tribute to the work of dedicated volunteers. From early spring to late fall, its natural beauty is shared with the many visitors and neighbors who pass by or stroll through the grounds. The garden has been recognized for its excellence, having received the Buffalo in Bloom city garden award.

The first Unitarian Church building in Buffalo was erected on a lot at Franklin & Eagle streets; its cornerstone was laid in 1833. Among those contributing towards its construction was Millard Fillmore, church member and future U.S. President, who later welcomed John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln as guests in his pew. Lincoln’s visit occurred during his stop in Buffalo on the way to Washington for his inauguration. Other Unitarian churches (at Delaware & Mohawk in 1879 and Amherst & Fairfield in 1897) were built prior to the current church.

The cornerstone for the first Universalist Church was laid near Washington & Swan Streets in 1832. Later locations were Main & Huron (1866), North & Mariner (1892), and Lafayette & Hoyt (in 1911).

Both faith traditions have long histories of social action and civil engagement. As the Civil War began, care packages were delivered to soldiers boarding trains enroute to the battlefields. More than a century ago, our members were providing services and advocating for immigrants in dire need. In the late-1960s, we were the site for a demonstration against the Vietnam War draft, providing physical and symbolic sanctuary for draft resistors. In the early 1990s, we underwent the process of becoming a Welcoming Congregation, officially adopting that designation in 1995. In adherence to our Seven Principles, we continue to engage locally and nationally in Social Justice issues, including education and environment, immigration, ethical eating, community support, adoption, reproductive rights, homelessness and hunger.