Not many high schoolers can say that they go to school in a mansion, but they certainly can if they attend Canisius High School. The beautiful building at the front of high school is almost castle-like with its intricate stonework. Today, many refer to this wing of the school as Berchmans Hall or the Koessler Academic Center. It houses the front desk of the school, the president's office, campus ministry, as well as a few classrooms. However, this mansion was not always meant to be an academic building. In fact, it was actually built to be somebody's home.
The house was set to be built for the prominent Rand family and construction began in 1918. The patriarch, George Rand Sr., was a very prominent man in the Buffalo banking sector early in the 20th century. He was the president of Marine National Bank of Buffalo that would merge with two other local financial institutions to form the Marine Trust Company of Buffalo. At the time, it was one of the strongest financial institutions in the nation. This institution would later transform into Marine Midland Bank.
George Rand Sr. could be described as a "superpatriot" during World War I and was willing to do whatever it would take to help his country win the war. Shortly after the declaration of war, Rand actually telegraphed President Woodrow Wilson offering to buy equipment for an entire American regiment. His offer would be turned down by the President.
The home was set to be an elegant place for George and Vina Rand along with their four children. It was supposed to be a great gathering place for the family as well as a place where they could entertain a great deal of guests. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the Rand family shortly after construction as Mrs. Vina Rand passed away.
Shortly after the death of his wife, while the house was still under construction, Rand visited the former battlefield of Verdun while on a business trip. The French suffered great defeat on this battlefield after being bombarded by the Germans in June 1916. George Rand visited Georges Clemencau, the premier of France, and made an arrangement to give 500,000 francs to build a memorial in dedication to the brave guardians of Verdun. Rand began his journey back home the next morning, but his plane would tragically crash in Croydon Field, England on December 11, 1919.
The Rand Mansion was finally completed in 1921 and the children of Mr. and Mrs. Rand moved in. They only owned the home for a short four years before they decided to sell it to the Masons in 1925. The Masons would make the home the Buffalo Consistory and would add some major additions to the building such as a grand foyer, auditorium and a swimming pool. Many of these additions that were made are still in use at the school today. The building was eventually taken over by the City of Buffalo in 1942 after taxes were not paid on the property. Eventually, Canisius High School purchased the building in 1944.
More information about the history of the Rand Mansion as well as numerous other fascinating stories throughout Canisius' history can be found in Blue Doors by Paul Cumbo '97. This book covers 150 years of Jesuit education at Canisius and can be purchased at the Canisius campus store or online here.
Work cited: Dunn, E. T. (2003). Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families.