By Ava C. Green, Features Editor
The day that I heard about the damages to Lyons Hall, I wept, mourning over the loss of culture, beauty and history that lived within those walls. That which once held scholars, grand performances, thoughtful discussion and inspired art was gone in one fell swoop. However, I quickly realized that wallowing would do no good to me or the state of the building. We must wipe our tears and march on, always remembering and honoring this beloved space.
Its purposefully grand exterior acted not only as a North Star to all those looking to seek a higher education in the greater Buffalo area, but also as a fortress protecting knowledge and great minds at work. In 1891, it was a boarding and day school for the Sisters of Mt. St. Joseph. On the same grounds, there was a specific school for boys that the nuns would teach at, working tirelessly to educate themselves so they could then educate young women, immigrants and those in need. By 1892, it would be a fully functioning and esteemed place to study. This was truly a great feat, but especially for these women with little experience or resources, guided by hope and faith alone.
In 1908, a south wing was added, which would become the Lyons Hall we knew and loved. The addition equipped the campus with lounges, chapels, classrooms and kitchens, as well as a fully functioning farm where the village townhouses are now. Not only were the nuns relentless in their quest to educate themselves and others, but also lived a close-to-self-sufficient life on this property. During its heyday, the school put on large masses, fashion shows and art galleries. It was a physical hub for those of different parishes and communities to come together productively and intelligently.
About a century later, the combination of accruing debt and the lowering population of nuns led to the school’s closing. Aware of its opportune location and vibrant history, Canisius College purchased the building for a mere $1.25 million dollars in 2005 to keep up with their boom in enrollment and course variety. It remained a shining star of our campus up until those very last moments of calm before the storm.
Lyons Hall had the ability to completely shape a person’s journey at Canisius. When our tour guides go out on their route, they would start and end the tour at Lyons — a true testament to its significance. It was home to acceptance letters and professors and studios and things that are guaranteed to inspire you to achieve more than you ever thought possible during your time here.
If we can learn anything from those who originally walked down those hallowed halls, it’s that with an honest mission and determination, we can change the world for the better. And maybe one day we’ll see our dear girl, Lyons Hall, back up and running in her full glory.
A special thank you to Kathleen Delaney for lending her time, knowledge and resources.