Christopher Kelly, Director
The Karpeles Museum building was purchased on August 7, 1995 after many months of negotiations.
The enormous building needed over $2,000,000.00 in extensive rebuilding including a new modern high power electrical service, a new main heating boiler system, and much more - even creating moulds to replace lost ornate pillar capitols. The first task of removing truckloads of pigeon droppings took over two months. Even some of the huge and ornate copper roof gutters were duplicated and replaced.
Finally on December 18, 1996, the first provisional exhibit was installed while work proceeded. The work had continued for over 3 years until October 1998 when the first phase of the rebuilding was finished and a permanent occupancy permit was applied for. Many additional tasks remain (such as the repair of the leaded glass window 'paintings', some over 4" thick). Meanwhile, in addition to our exhibit in the main exhibit halls, the Buffalo Symphony, our next door neighbor, is currently holding auditions in the museums smaller auditoriums.
After forming in 1850 and congregating in smaller churches, the Plymouth Methodist Church commissioned C. K. Porter to build the current structure at 435 Porter Avenue. Started in 1908, it was completed in 1911. The congregation continued its presence until its dissolution in 1968 because of decreased membership. The church was then donated to another congregation, then it too collapsed.
Fortunately, through the lobbying of numerous community groups, talks of demolition ceased and in 1989 the building was designated a City of Buffalo Historic Landmark. However, even with it's status, it remained vacant until 1996.
Designed to mimic a medieval church both inside and out, the structure creates a dominating and fascinating location for the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. The rough textured building contrasts with its vibrant red roof tiles and 25 foot picture windows. The cavernous interior is characterized by many bays, wings and a massive room divider. Furthermore, it's atypical asymmetric design compliments the triangular corner lot.
Upon entering the museum one can see a large, beautiful, pillared, Terrazzo floored exhibit hall. Visitors must be advised that this is merely the Foyer and they must procede futher to see the main exhibit hall. Beyond the next doors sits one of the worlds largest and grandest exhibit halls with multiple levels of lights and a lit canopy arching across the entire expanse of the former sanctuary.
The congregation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist commissioned Chicago architect, Solon S. Beman to design the building at 220 North Street. Construction was completed in 1911. The Christian Scientists occupied the building until the early 1980s, followed by a succession of Baptist congregations, until it was purchased by the Museum in December 2003. In order to accommodate the manuscript displays, some changes were made to the interior of the sanctuary space. Some of the pews were removed in order to build and install a level hardwood stage. Much of the interior of the building has been replastered and repainted. Significant roof and gutter repairs were required to insure the integrity of the interior as well. The building formally opened to the public as the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in the Summer of 2006.
The style of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on North Street is Greek Revival, characterized by a six-columned Greek temple style portico, fluted ionic columns and decoratively paned windows.