Bishop McQuaid went to Rome in 1878 to make his required ad limina visit. During the visit he was often asked, does Rochester have a diocesan seminary? Rochester was a small diocese comprising, at that time eight counties, which in 1879 had only sixty or seventy thousand communicants; mostly people of limited means.
Bishop McQuaid began to think long term. In 1879 he began a seminary building fund and in 1883 began an endowment to support the prospective faculty. In 1887 he began looking for property suitable for a seminary and became aware of a plot of about twenty acres adjoining Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. He purchased this land for $10,019.80 on April 1887, which he drew from the Special Building Fund.
When horticulturist Patrick Barry passed away he left: "five thousand dollars to Rt. Rev. B.J. McQuaid when his seminary shall have been built." The Bishop asked his lawyer when a building could be called "built". "When the walls are up and the roof is on," was the reply.
In 1891 things were in place. The Bishop had found good stone on the Martin property, about a mile to the south on the riverbank, in a quarry near the present Veteran's Memorial Bridge. Warner and Brockett had been hired as architects, and under careful instruction of Bishop McQuaid had drawn up plans for three buildings: a Main Building with rooms for some sixty students, the faculty and the Bishop, plus library, recreation rooms, etc.; a chapel-refectory building running to the rear at right-angles to the Main Building; and a house for Sisters and domestics, also to the rear, behind the north wing of the main building. The builder was the Hiram Edgerton Company, the largest construction company in the city. The Bishop decided to complete the building and an appeal to the sixty-seven priests of the diocese and the faithful of their parishes raised sufficient funds.
On August 19th, 1893 the Chapel was dedicated and the Main Building dedicated the next day. The opening for classes was September 4th, 1893. There were thirty-nine students. The seminary eventually attracted students form other areas which resulted in the Seminary's expansion.
In 1900 the Hall of Philosophy was built to the south of and at right angles to the main building. It was a three-story fireproof building with classrooms on the first floor, accommodations for two professors and thirty students on the second, a library and large assembly hall on the third.
Further expansion led to the building of the Hall of Theology, flanking the Main Building to the north. This hall, built with stone from a new quarry a couple of miles to the southwest, contained rooms for 140 students. A close look reveals differences in the stone.
Originally the buildings were not connected but eventually brick corridors were constructed. It was complete new construction in the case of the chapel corridor (1923 -24), and in the case of the south corridor (1935). The north corridor already had a brick street-side wall, but in 1941 a brick wall was erected to replace, on the opposite side, drafty glass windows.
To the rear of the Main Building and the convent a large heating plant structure had been built in 1935, and garages had been set up somewhat to the north of this plant.
The seminary had orchards, gardens and a dairy which provided much of it's food but this was discontinued during the 1930's.
Around 1916-1918, a wave of emotional anti-Germanism began to surge across the United States, and many native Americans looked with suspicion anybody with a German name, even if born in this country. To counter this trend the young German-American priests of Rochester contributed to purchase and erect a flagpole at St. Bernard's. Bishop Hickey attended the formal raising of the first flag, on the eve of Columbus Day, 1916. The pole was cross-topped.
(The seminary closed in 1981 and was purchased by the Eastman Kodak Company in 1982.)