June 30, 2024

Forest Lawn to Celebrate its 175th Anniversary

Forest Lawn, an exemplary landscape of the American rural cemetery movement, is poised to celebrate its 175th anniversary.

The cemetery will begin commemorating this milestone on August 10, which, to the day, marks the 1849 date 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.

Since its founding, Forest Lawn was and continues to be an active cemetery with more than 169,000 “permanent residents.” With its well-maintained parkland, waterways, wildlife, remarkable funerary art and architecture, and a tree canopy that recently earned the cemetery its designation as a Level I Arboretum, Forest Lawn remains an inclusive and welcoming place for all.

Fittingly, the 175th anniversary celebration will launch 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.

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.

Over next 12 months, Forest Lawn will host a series of special events and activities that illuminate why so many people have chosen Forest Lawn for their final resting place and why the cemetery remains one of the region’s most popular destinations for visitors – from daily walkers and families to tourists from near and far.

“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.”

Beyond the August 10 gala and release of Pensive Beauty, plans for Forest Lawn’s 175th anniversary celebration include a number of community events and activities. Among them are:

• 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.

These programs are made possible in part through the generous support of a number of organizations including Presenting Sponsors: Gallagher Insurance and Hodgson Russ Attorneys; Friends of Forest Lawn: Opus Capital Management and OpusXenta; and 175th Anniversary Patrons: Biondan, Darling Paint, Davey Resource Group, Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne, LLP and Grever & Ward, Inc.

Information about all that is planned for Forest Lawn’s 175th anniversary celebration, including the ability to order copies of Pensive Beauty will be on the cemetery’s website (forest-lawn.com).

All proceeds from the gala, the sale of the new book and the year-long calendar of events will benefit the Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation, the charitable organization established to assure the ongoing preservation and care of Forest Lawn.