The History of Buffalo Seminary’s Locations and Additions

By Inga W.

Left: Evergreen Cottage, the first location of the school. Right: Goodell Hall, located behind the cottage. Below: SEM prior to the West-Chester addition.

Buffalo Seminary has a complex history of various buildings and several additions. Upon the school’s founding, the Board of Trustees enlisted Dr. Charles E. West, SEM’s first head of school, to choose the location of the school. He picked Evergreen Cottage in Johnson Park, which was originally the school’s only building. Buffalo Seminary was able to grow thanks to the generous donations of Jabez Goodell, a teacher and settler of Buffalo. He donated ten acres to the school and around $15,000. With this money, SEM was able to build an academic building called “Goodell Hall’’ behind the cottage. Afterwards, the cottage was mostly used as a home for the headmaster, some of the staff, and the residential students. In 1906, the Graduates Association announced plans to purchase land on Bidwell Parkway for construction of a new school. This land was considered to be ideal as it was not in a bustling area, but it was close to the Elmwood Avenue streetcar line, which provided transportation for many students. Estimated costs of the new building were almost $100,000 so Goodell Hall and Evergreen Cottage were sold and SEM took out a mortgage loan of $40,000. Because of the plot’s strange triangular shape, SEM had George F. Newton, a notable local architect, design a plan for the new building in what is known as a “Collegiate Gothic style.”

In the 1920s, SEM experienced its first large addition. As SEM’s enrollment grew, Bley and Lyman were hired to plan an addition to the east side of the building on Bidwell Parkway. The new addition included several classrooms, a gym, an art studio, and West-Chester Hall, named for Dr. Charles E. West and Albert T. Chester, the school’s first two heads of school. In 1953, Larkin Field and the property on it were donated to SEM by a prior student. Buffalo Seminary utilized the property considerably; the house became home to the head of school and the field was used for sports teams. As SEM continued growing, another addition was constructed in the 1960s. Bley and Lyman’s subsequent firm, Duane Lyman and Associates, planned to add a science wing to the building. In 1984, the North Star Construction company constructed the Margaret L. Wendt Performing Arts Center. This new room would be used for theater, dance, and several other skills. Most recently, the school’s facilities were renovated in 2001. During this modernization, the courtyard was converted into an atrium.

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