Forest Lawn Cemetery - Table of Contents   ................... Elmwood Historic District (EAST) - Table of Contents

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Elmwood Historic District (EAST)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination

Section 8, Pages 18-19
Prepared by Clinton Brown Company Architecture/Rebuild (online Feb. 2016)

Research by Hannah Beckman

It was this natural landscape, still distant from the center of the emerging city of Buffalo, which attracted another development in the area in the 1840s, Forest Lawn Cemetery. As most of Buffalo’s early burial grounds were located close to the population centers, concerns arose in later years about burying those who had succumbed to diseases such as cholera in such close proximity to the residents of the growing city. These real estate and health motives also combined with a new romanticism and sentimentality about death, which gave rise to the rural cemetery movement. The rural cemetery movement promoted cemeteries with picturesque landscaped burial grounds, combining naturalistic settings with elegant monuments, memorials and statuary, creating a place for mourning and also recreation.

Responding to the rural cemetery influence and the dire need for more burial space in Buffalo, Charles E. Clarke purchased 80 acres of land in 1849 in lots 64 and 65 on the north bank of the Scajaquada Creek, more than 2 1⁄2 miles north of the city center. Clarke appears to have acted both as a private developer and as one concerned for greater health for the public.61 In the spring of 1850, work began on the project, which Clarke named Forest Lawn Cemetery, to deliberately shape the rough topography of the area and carefully manicure the existing vegetation.

In 1864, the Buffalo City Cemetery, a non-profit incorporated trust, was established and in 1865 the trustees invited Spring Grove Cemetery (in Cincinnati, Ohio) superintendent and trained landscape gardener, Adolph Strauch, to create a more open, airy, unbroken landscape.62 The relationship between the cemetery and the city of Buffalo sets the stage for and nicely presages the character of the Elmwood District:

It was considered of the first importance to locate this Cemetery where it would enjoy a permanent seclusion; where the expenditure of taste and money would become a heritage of all coming time; where desecrating tendencies of modern commercial growth should never violate its sanctity, or the encroaching waves of a noisy, restless city life, disturb its repose.

The grounds now embraced by “Forest Lawn” seem to fulfill these conditions, without being at too great a distance from the paved thoroughfares of the city. 63

While the intent of the builders of Forest Lawn Cemetery may have been to remain remote, far from the reaches of the city, the park-like grounds had the opposite effect, quickly attracting people to this region of Buffalo and encouraging its later development. The creation of the cemetery that would provide the northeastern border of the Elmwood Historic District was a notable milestone in this area’s transition from farms to more refined, garden-like settlement.

61 Clarke, a lawyer in Buffalo, and not only the founder of Forest Lawn Cemetery, but also was noted as a founder and president of Buffalo General Hospital in 1855. His involvement in both these medical-based projects indicates he may have had an interest in the health and well-being of his community beyond just seeing Forest Lawn as a development scheme.

62 Forest Lawn Cemetery reached its current size of 240 acres in 1884, with a purchase of seven acres of land. Albert L. Michaels and Bette A. Rupp, "A History of Forest Lawn Cemetery," in Forest Lawn Cemetery: Buffalo History Preserved, by Richard O. Reisem (Buffalo, NY: Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation, 1996), 39-50. Also, John A. Bonafide, Forest Lawn Cemetery, report no. 90000688, State and National Registers of Historic Places Nomination, 1990.

63 Forest Lawn: Its History, Dedications, Progress, Regulations, Names of Lot Holders, &c. (Buffalo, N.Y.: Thomas Howard & Johnson, 1867), 119.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2016
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