recalls old Bonas
Venture - Dec. 11, 1970
by Terry Smith
Everyone knows Griff.
Everyone knows Bonas.
Or do they?
One thing for certain, Bonaventure and Griff have grown
Griff attended school here from 1916-1919, majoring in
arts, then remaining to work at the University. Now he's part of the
Calling himself "a roving delegate," Griff
claims to be "the last link to the Old Bonas," something he
holds very close to him. A good deal of Bonaventure property was
purchased from Griff, including the eastern half of the golf course.
The Standard Oil Company sold 150 acres to the college
in the early 1930's. The boundaries were then east of the
administration building to radio station WHDL; from there, straight back
to the river.
Now the boundaries include supplemental land from the
western side of the of the fence by WHDL, back to the river, from the
railroad tracks back to the river, a total of 500 acres.
Griff owns land straight across from the administration
building, which from 1946-56 was used to house married students.
There were several four-unit buildings; three families lived in each
unit. Some children who lived in "diaper row: have since
graduated from Bonaventure, including Mark Tuohey '68, Student State
Griff says each building on campus has its own story.
"About six years ago, there was a train depot,
near where Shay-Loughlen is now. Next to it was the original
baseball field. It had a stand and everything," he recalls.
An old football stadium stood six or seven years ago,
where Hopkins Hall stands. The $100,000 stadium, a gift from Olean
mayor Fred Forness, was built in 77 days in 1946. It served as the
training grounds for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. After years of
collegiate grid iron action, the sport was discontinued in the Fall of
1951. Six years later, the old football field was demolished, and
the modern administration building erected.
Behind De La Roche was the brick
Hall, built in
1888. The church-like structure housed students' activities.
The University library was here before the completion of Friedsam Memorial
in 1938. After years of use, the antiquated Alumni Hall was
condemned, and the building razed in 1963.
McRay House stood behind De La Roche. For years
the Friars' Fraternity used this seven-room building. It was
demolished several years ago.
The Franciscan Institute was originally a music hall;
in 1934 the music hall was abandoned and used as a Guidance
Center. That was removed five years ago. The Franciscan
Institute and Fraternity are now on the second floor of the University
Center (Reilly Center.) Where these two buildings stood in the
"Hickey Hall was first called the Annex. It
was built in 1910 and was originally for parents of students when they
came to visit. Later it was a convent, and finally, used by
There was a building behind the Hall called the
"stalls" (used for cattle) which, according to Griff, was
"the last of the old buildings." It was taken down in
1909. Barns were built in 1931 to house some of the cattle the
University shipped in from Kansas and Texas.
Before Devereux was built, that area was used as a
horse barn. "The barn was moved back to where Robinson
is," Griff remarked, "but then it was burned down. It was
eventually rebuilt in 1931. Later it was moved on rollers back to
where the barns destroyed in the October fire stood.
"There was a long tin building where the Post
Office is now," continued our roving delegate, "that was used as
a hot house. That was built in the mid-1920's. Back there is a
little room in the barn which is our hot house now. The rifle range
was originally pig pens." The college kept 700 head of cattle,
and 65 pigs as a large part of its food supply during its younger,
A ROTC building was built in 1936 by the boiler room
but in 1946 it was turned into barracks. Eventually they were taken
Four floors to the original De La Roche?
"Well, students used to live on the fourth floor
in De La Roche, until a student smoked in bed and it burned (1908).
After the fire they rebuilt it (1909) including the steeple with its
clock. It was named Lunch Hall at the time. Then there was
another fire (1933), when it was struck by lightning. So they just
refinished three stories.
With 1916 came the completion of Butler Memorial
Fire hit the campus in the 1930's three times,
destroying: --the original college building which housed the church and
monastery. All that remains of the old church is the statue of the
Blessed Virgin Mary in the cul-de-sac with the inscription at the base:
"The Lord gave 1855. The Lord took away 1930. --the
barns. --Lynch Hall (now De La Roche).
Destruction gave way to construction and an expanding
university. Lynch Hall was rebuilt, minus the fourth floor, and
renamed De La Roche, after the Franciscan discoverer of oil in Cuba, New
York 300 years ago. In the middle '50's came the addition of
Christ the King Seminary, named by Pope Pius XI in
1932, was completed in 1952.
Bonas' unofficial historian recalls some of the more
unusual days in the school's annals:
"Bonas used to have its own railroad, you
know." Griff recalls the switch in front of Butler Gym.
The tracks originally went into Olean, Allegany and Salamanca. This
was later changed. The switch ran only from the main line track to
the back of the boiler room. In 1947, the tracks were gone and
trucks were used. St. Bonaventure College (it was not granted
university status until 1950) was connected by a spur with the Olean
Railway line late in 1891. This enabled the trolley to deliver goods
as well as passengers to the campus.
Two events helped close the trolley system down: in
1928 the trolley company went bankrupt and in the same year, the Empire
Tannery in Olean burned down.
The Armour Meat Company owned the Tannery. They
had a locomotive. Fr. Thomas
OFM, then President, decided
to buy it. It meant the death of the trolley and the birth of the
St. Bonaventure Limited, that opened in 1929.
Griff would sometimes aid the locomotive in winter when
it would jump the tracks, it just couldn't make hills, with his team of
horses. Often he and Andy Boser, who later became an engineer,
shoveled snow drifts off the tracks.
Fr. Tom nominated and elected himself president of the
St. Bonaventure Railroad. He was the only clergyman in America who
headed a standard gauge line. This 300-yard line railroad was
considered the shortest standard gauge line in the history of New York
State. After 10 years, the engine became hazardous to operate.
So in 1939 the Limited was sold to an Olean junkman.
One unusual era in Bonas' history had come to an end.
From the laying of the first building's cornerstone in
1856, to the proposed plans of expansion ($10,000,000 in five years), the
physical aspects of Bonas have changed drastically from the wilderness
community Nicholas Devereux envisioned. Inevitably, it will change,
as any dream does.