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Oakwood Cemetery earns listing on National Register of Historic Places

by jmaloni

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Tue, Oct 28th 2014 02:50 pm

Congressman Brian Higgins joined members of the Oakwood Cemetery Association and the Niagara Falls community to formally recognize Oakwood Cemetery's placement on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the nation's official list of properties worthy of preservation; it recognizes properties as being an important part of this country's history and provides these properties with a measure of protection.

"Historical properties are an important part of Western New York's identity, and Oakwood Cemetery is no exception," Higgins said. "The cemetery is a landmark in the Niagara Falls community, and its history makes it a great addition to the National Register of Historic Places."

Whitney W. Mallam, president of the Oakwood Cemetery Association board of directors, said, "We are honored to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. Our inclusion not only elevates the prestige of this historic property, it allows us to apply for grants to restore our gardens, grounds and buildings, which reflects the history of the Niagara area. Oakwood Cemetery Association is grateful to all those who assisted us along the way to achieve this important status."

"Oakwood Cemetery, literally at the heart of the city geographically, is very close to the city's figurative heart as well," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. "Within its historic grounds, some of the city's most influential and historic figures have been laid to rest. It is thus fitting that now, as cultural and heritage tourism are becoming keys parts of the regional economic development agenda, Oakwood is finally getting the recognition it deserves from the historic preservation community at the national level. I commend all those responsible for making the National Registry listing possible, and the great staff who have brought so much of the city's once-forgotten history back to life, including, I might add, some of the lost history of my own family buried at Oakwood."

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said "Oakwood Cemetery is a true asset to the Niagara Falls community and a wonderful place to learn the stories and history of the city. This designation will go a long way to further developing the cemetery and ensuring its stability for years to come."

Laid out in 1852, Oakwood Cemetery encompasses 18.5 acres near the center of the City of Niagara Falls. The cemetery, which is still in use, currently contains roughly 22,000 burials. Oakwood Cemetery is home to the graves of a number of the most famous historic inhabitants of Niagara Falls and contains a section dedicated to both successful and failed daredevils who braved the falls.

Renowned engineer T. D. Judah, also known for his work on the first transcontinental railroad, designed the cemetery. The existing topography, curving roadways and planned landscaping are evidence of the design philosophy of the Rural Cemetery Movement. 

"Over the last five years, the designation came together with the help of dedicated volunteers," said Pete Ames, Oakwood Cemetery board of directors member. "I am pleased to say that Oakwood Cemetery is 'coming back to life' in the historic sense, and I am proud to be a part of the group that is working towards that end. The process started with local, then state, and now national historic status.

"Niagara Falls is an international tourist destination, and Oakwood will be an added attraction for those interested in the historical importance of the 160-year-old site, as well as those interred there. I like to say that there are over 22,000 stories to be told, and we have only scratched the surface.

" 'Niagara's History is at Oakwood.' "

The National Register of Historic Places was authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is awarded by the National Park Service, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Larry Steele, Oakwood Cemetery administer, added, "It has long been our goal to have Oakwood Cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As an outdoor 'history/art' museum and fine example of a 'rural cemetery,' Oakwood is an absolute jewel in the crown of Niagara's history. It is our duty to maintain and improve the grounds for future generations. Being listed on the register will assist us with our mission and vision."

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