Serendipitous conservation

Faith-to-faith conversion of historic churches in Buffalo

Interior view of the Jami Masjid show the replaced windows and Turkish carpeting for Islamic prayer. The murals have been painted sky blue and the walls are adorned with Arabic calligraphy

Assistant professor of urban planning Ashima Krishna and Masters of Urban Planning graduate Enjoli Hall examine the conversion of former churches on the East Side of Buffalo as they are transformed into spaces for other faiths.

US cities with shrinking populations have faced tremendous challenges in conserving their built heritage. Often, conservation work involves adaptively reusing existing buildings. Most reuse activity is fueled by the developer and market-driven rehabilitation of historic properties through tax credits and other incentives. Places of worship like churches, however, are difficult to rehabilitate, and cities lose this urban heritage after years of vacancy and neglect, and eventual demolition. In many shrinking cities, particularly those now welcoming new immigrants and refugees, serendipitous conservation of vacant churches through faith-to-faith conversion can be an asset to local planners and preservationists in their fight to save urban heritage from demolition. This paper examines two former Roman Catholic Churches in the City of Buffalo: one converted into an Islamic mosque, and another into a Buddhist temple, to argue that faith-to-faith conversions can be a viable tool for other US cities experiencing similar threats to their urban heritage.


Ashima Krishna
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UB

Enjoli Hall
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UB


Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability

Date Published