The campus of St. Bonaventure University, circa 1980s.
Since its inception in 1858, St. Bonaventure University has been an institution that is consistently changing and growing with each passing year. The most obvious change is the physical growth that has occurred. It is this physical growth that has seen the rise and fall of older buildings and the addition of new ones to take their places. With the addition of each new building, a new piece of history is being created for St. Bonaventure. With each old building that is destroyed, a piece of Bonaventure's history is laid to rest, and each building that endures the test of time becomes a part of Bonaventure's legacy.
The purpose of this page is to discuss the architectural history of St. Bonaventure by featuring the five oldest existing buildings of the campus- Butler Memorial Gym, Devereux Hall, Hickey Memorial Dining Hall, De La Roche Hall, and Friedsam Memorial Library. This site will also feature three buildings that no longer exist- the St. Bonaventure Monastery and Chapel, Alumni Hall, and Lynch Hall- to provide a glimpse into Bonaventure's past and the changes in the campus over time. Each buildings' architectural features and history are discussed as well as their effect on the social history of St. Bonaventure.
For more information on the newer buildings that St. Bonaventure has added in the past few decades, click on the "Buildings Index" link.
The History of St. Bonaventure University
The St. Bonaventure campus circa early 1940s.
St. Bonaventure University came into being through the efforts of one man- a land proprietor by the name of Nicholas Devereux. Devereux was an Irish immigrant who came to the United States in 1806. He worked in Albany, NY and later moved to Utica, NY to work for his brother, John. It was in Utica that Devereux made his home and was married to Mary Dolbear.
Devereux worked his way up and was able to save enough money to purchase land from the Holland Land Company on December 16, 1835. He acquired 417,970 acres of land for the price of $380,587.19. This acreage is within present-day Cattaraugus County and includes the town of Allegany, NY where St. Bonaventure University is located.
Besides being a successful business man, Devereux was also highly active in the Roman Catholic Church and philanthropic organizations. He wanted to establish a Catholic, Franciscan institution in the Allegany, NY area. In 1854, Devereux traveled to Rome and asked the Franciscans to begin a mission in Western New York. He promised the Franciscans $5,000 and two hundred acres of land from his farm in Allegany. Three priests and one brother accepted the proposal. They arrived in Allegany in 1855.
On August 20, 1856, the first cornerstone on campus was laid for the Monastery of St. Bonaventure's College (St. Bonaventure had not yet achieved University status). The College was officially established in 1858 with the completion of the first college building. St. Bonaventure's College became the first Franciscan college/university in the United States. The University is world renowned to this day for its Franciscan Institute, which is dedicated to the study of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan Order and other theological subjects.
For a snapshot view of St. Bonaventure while Thomas Merton was here, go to: St. Bonaventure Campus c. 1940. There are more pictures and description of campus buildings and shrines there.