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Forest Lawn celebrates 175th Anniversary

Yearlong commemoration will launch August 10 on the cemetery’s grounds with cocktails, dinner and release of “Pensive Beauty” hardcover book with signing by author Melissa Banta and photographer Andy Olenick

Forest Lawn is preparing to launch a year-long celebration that will commemorate its 175th anniversary. Starting August 10, the cemetery will embark upon a series of activities and events that will include a book release, Cocktails on the Creek (a seated dinner), a “Fall in the Forest” weekend, the dedication of a new statue honoring Shirley Chisholm, and a re-creation of Forest Lawn’s first burial.

It was 175 years ago (August 10) that Buffalo attorney Charles E. Clark and his wife Mary Anna purchased a total of 80 acres from the family of the late Erastus Granger to establish Forest Lawn Cemetery. That purchase would change the course of Buffalo, not only as a significant part of the American rural cemetery movement, but also as a place that would one day claim the distinction – and designation – as a Level I Arboretum. In recent years, tremendous landscape efforts have been made to create an environmental oasis, thanks to the efforts of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

People from all over the world visit Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, in search of historic knowledge, wildlife, funerary art, and architecture (see mausoleums). A stroll (or bike ride) through the cemetery is not only peaceful and serene, it is also a real eye-opener, as it expertly depicts Buffalo in ways that would otherwise remain obscure and dormant.

Silent for Most of the Last 150 Years, the Bells of St. Joseph Cathedral Ring Once Again…in Forest Lawnclick here to learn more.

The year-long celebration kicks off on Saturday, August 10 with an evening event on the cemetery grounds including Cocktails on the Creek:

A seated dinner, recognition of Forest Lawn’s longstanding archivist John Edens and the release of Pensive Beauty, Visions of Forest Lawn, Buffalo’s First Rural Cemetery. Author Melissa Banta and photographer Andy Olenick will sign editions of the hardcover book that evening in the cemetery’s historic chapel. Tickets for the 175th Anniversary celebration are available for $175 per person, $275 per patron (includes a copy of Pensive Beauty*). The public is welcome to participate in this fundraiser, benefitting the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation.

“With the gala and the release of Pensive Beauty we will begin the commemoration of Forest Lawn’s 175th anniversary, a truly remarkable and significant milestone,” said Julie R. Snyder, chief executive officer of the Forest Lawn Cemetery Group and the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation. “Over the course of the next year, we will celebrate Forest Lawn’s storied past, including the memories of those who rest within our gates, and focus on the keys to assuring its future. We are very excited about what we have planned.”

Other events and activities planned as part of the year-long celebration include:

New offerings in Forest Lawn’s very popular, award-winning tour program;

With New York State Senator Sean Ryan’s support, dedication of a new statue honoring Shirley Chisholm, one of the cemetery’s most famous “permanent residents” who was the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first to run for President;

A special “Fall in the Forest” weekend this Oct. 4-6, with food, vendors, hayrides, pumpkins and apples and other family-centric activities amidst the beautiful foliage of Forest Lawn, as well as the release of a new novel by author Robert Brighton, The Phantom of Forest Lawn;

Special tree-planting events this fall (and next spring) to further Forest Lawn’s designation as a Level I Arboretum;

Commemoration of the 225th birthday of President Millard Fillmore on Jan. 7, 2025, another of Forest Lawn’s most famous “permanent residents”;

A keynote speaker event on May 10, 2025 featuring author Allison Meier (Grave), with an optional VIP Trolley Tour with the author;

Re-creation on July 12, 2025, of Forest Lawn’s first burial – that of John Lay – which took place on July 12, 1850.

*Part historical narrative, part pictorial experience, Pensive Beauty presents a unique opportunity to learn more about the cemetery’s rich history and that of the City of Buffalo. The book will go on sale to the public on August 12 on the Forest Lawn website (forest-lawn.com) and during normal business hours at the Margaret L. Wendt Archive & Resource Center, 1990 Main St. in Buffalo.

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