Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center is now open at the historic Forest Lawn Cemetery, providing visitors with access to more than 1.2 million historical and genealogical documents. The 3,000-plus square-foot facility will allow the public to trace the genealogy of more than 160,000 people buried in the cemetery, including former U.S. President Millard Fillmore, 47 Buffalo mayors and many other great citizens who shaped the historic landscape of Western New York during the past century and a half.
Preserving the legacy of New Yorkers who came before our time is an important way to carry on the rich history that defines our state, Governor Cuomo said. Digitizing these memories at the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center will do just that, while also boosting tourism by creating another reason for visitors to explore all that Buffalo has to offer.
Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy was on hand for a tour of the new facility, which will offer digital copies of books, records, and certificates of people who are buried in Forest Lawn. The New York Power Authority, following a recommendation by the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board, awarded the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation $150,000 to begin digitization of Western New Yorks largest collection of individual and family records.
Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy said, "Western New York has a deep history, and with these records being made public more Buffalonians can trace their lineage and learn more about life over the past 150 years. Thanks to Governor Cuomo's vision to increase tourism and business in this region, projects like this will draw visitors to the Cemetery and other world-class attractions in the area. I encourage New Yorkers and visitors alike to stop by and read about some of the incredible people buried here."
Founded in 1849, with more than 160,000 residents inside its 269 acres, Forest Lawn is one of Americas premier historic cemeteries. As one of the most heavily visited historic sites in Western New York, the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation identified the need to enhance visitors experience by making connections to the history on display at Forest Lawn Cemetery. To fulfil this mission, the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation constructed the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center, which is intended to give each visitor the opportunity to trace the genealogy of any of the families buried in Forest Lawn. Because the cemetery, which is on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, dates almost as far back as the City of Buffalo, many of the visitors will find that they can trace their own genealogy back to the first generations of Buffaloians in their family.
In order to create additional accessibility, fencing surrounding the cemetery has been reconfigured to open the center directly to Main Street. The location of the center, which recreates Erastus Grangers original barn that once stood in that location as part of his homestead prior to 1849, is next to the Erie County American Legion Veterans Section and across the street from the new Canisius College Science Center.
Through the support of New York State, Forest Lawn has been able to begin the scanning and digitization of more than 1.6 million documents held in its archives.
The New York Power Authority funding is drawn from net earnings of unutilized power from the Niagara project that is sold into the electricity wholesale marketplace and applied under the Western NY Power Proceeds Act, spurring capital investments and job creation in Western New York. The award to the not-for-profit organization followed the recommendation of Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board under the criteria of spurring tourism in the region.
Digitizing of the archived records, supported by this grant, should be complete in December 2016.
Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA President and Chief Executive Officer, said, Supporting the tourism industry in Western New York is of paramount importance to growing the states economy. With the Power Proceeds program, the New York Power Authority uses funds generated by the sale of unutilized hydropower to support business and not-for-profit organizations for economic development and tourism.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, Having a history that goes to the earliest days of Buffalo and is paralleled only by places like Arlington National Cemetery, Forest Lawn is a key tourism asset to our region. Our residents and visitors alike can now visit Forest Lawn and learn how they fit into the regions history and the broader world around us. Governor Cuomo and the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation recognize that the publics interest in genealogy can translate into a significant increase in visitors and tourism dollars into Buffalo.
Forest Lawn Cemetery Board of Trustees Chair Dean H. Jewett said, Forest Lawns recent Capital Campaign focused on Sustaining the Beauty, Telling the Stories, and Assuring the Future of this historic cemetery. The foremost achievement of the Campaign was the construction and opening of the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center. This state-of-the-art community resource not only houses our extensive archives, which, for the first time, are available to individuals conducting personal, family or public genealogical research but is also the starting and ending place for our award winning tours.
Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation Board of Directors Chair Holly A. Donaldson said, This project will preserve an important historic resource, by aiding in digitizing the largest depository of historic death records and other related information in WNY. It will both aid in the City of Buffalos downtown revitalization as well as heighten the recreational, historical and cultural experience to local residents and tourists.
About Forest Lawn Heritage FoundationThe mission of the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation is for the charitable and educational purposes of assisting in the preservation of the natural beauty and historic integrity of Buffalo City Cemetery (known as Forest Lawn Cemetery) in Buffalo, New York, and increasing public knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the unique cultural, historic, architectural and natural resources of the Cemetery. The Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation, a 501c3 organization, also helps educate teachers, students and the public about the vast cultural, historical and natural resources found at Forest Lawn.