Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York

Photo by Michael Kleen

Forest Lawn Cemetery, at 1411 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York, is a Victorian rural cemetery established in 1849. Over 161,000 former residents of the “City of Light” are interred within its 269 acres, including U.S. President Millard Fillmore and the 49 victims of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash. True to its name, Forest Lawn is also an important arboretum, with over 3,500 trees spread over its sprawling grounds. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Blue Sky Mausoleum

Modern architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed this unique mausoleum in 1928, but it wouldn’t be until 76 years later that his apprentice Anthony Puttnam would complete the project. The Blue Sky Mausoleum, called that because its crypts face the sky rather than each other in an enclosed structure, contains 24 burial vaults. It sits on a gentle slope overlooking a small pond.

Chief Red Jacket (1750–1830)

This detailed bronze sculpture of Seneca Chief Red Jacket (1750–1830) was erected in 1851. Red Jacket, or Sagoyewatha, negotiated with the new United States government after the Revolutionary War and signed the Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794, where President George Washington presented him with a large oval peace medal (depicted in the statue). His name was derived from the embroidered red jacket the British gave him in recognition of his service. Upon his death, his body was interred in the Reservation Cemetery, but re-interred in Forest Lawn Cemetery in 1884.

Edwin Gilbert (1825-1888)

This rare Sphinx is an Egyptian revival monument to Edwin Gilbert (1825-1888) and his wife Mary Ellen (1834-1912). Gilbert was a malt and grain merchant and member of the Buffalo Merchant Exchange. The center cartouche features a variety of symbols, including an ankh, a reed, and a serpent.

Rick James (1948-2004)

Born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr., Rick James (1948-2004) was a Motown funk and R&B artist known for songs like “Give It to Me Baby” and “Super Freak”. He deserted from the US Navy in the 1960s, but went on to become a popular musician in the 1970s and ’80s, before suffering from drug addiction and run ins with the law. He died in Los Angeles, but returned to Buffalo, New York, his place of birth and childhood home, for burial.

Orson Phelps (1805-1870)

This granite statue representing Charity adorns a Victorian monument to Orson Phelps (1805-1870) and his wife, Calista Maria Talbot (1824-1898). Phelps owned the Clarendon Hotel, at the corner of South Division and Main streets in Buffalo, until it was destroyed by fire in 1860. Four female statues around the monument represent the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity, as well as Fortitude, one of the four classical Cardinal Virtues. An angel stands at the top.

Millard Fillmore (1800-1874)

Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), 13th president of the United States, was a member of the Whig Party and vice president to Zachary Taylor, and native of Buffalo, NY. Fillmore became president when Taylor died early into his administration. Fillmore is best known for the Compromise of 1850, which was meant to settle the debate over slavery but ultimately led to Southern secession ten years later. He was not nominated by his party to run for a second term, and then devastated by the loss of his wife and daughter. He reluctantly ran as the American Party nominee for president in 1856, and lost.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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