164-year-old cemetery recognized on National Register for Historic Places
Congressman Brian Higgins was joined Monday by Niagara Falls leaders and representatives from the Oakwood Cemetery Association and Niagara Falls National Heritage Area to officially unveil a National Register of Historic Places designation sign at Oakwood Cemetery.
"This designation recognizes Oakwood Cemetery's role in telling the story of Niagara Falls, and the official sign provides a constant reminder of the special place in history this site holds," Higgins said.
Historic Oakwood Cemetery was founded in 1852 on land donated by Lavinia Porter, daughter of Judge Augustus Porter. The judge was one of the acknowledged founders of Niagara Falls, and one of its largest landowners. Renowned engineer T.D. Judah, also known for his work on the first transcontinental railroad, designed the 18.5-acre cemetery.
The Oakwood landscape was designed in 1882 by Drake Whitney, nephew to the three Whitney sisters for which Niagara Falls State Park's Three Sisters' Islands are named. The existing topography, curving roadways and planned landscaping are evidence of the design philosophy of the Rural Cemetery Movement.
Sara Capen, executive director of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, said, "Oakwood Cemetery is a tremendous historic and cultural asset in Niagara Falls. Being recognized on the National Register of Historic Places signifies the importance of the history of our region to the story of America. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is proud to be a partner with Oakwood Cemetery."
Oakwood would become the final resting place for families whose names are associated with the growth and development of Niagara Falls as a great industrial city and a world-renowned tourist attraction. Today, it includes approximately 22,000 burials. Along with the Whitneys, these families include the Schoelkopfs, of hydroelectric power fame; the Oppenheims; the Siberbergs; the Pfohls; the Haeberles; the Tattersalls; the Holleys; and both Porter brothers. Also among those buried at Oakwood, one finds Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to travel over the falls in a barrel; Homan Walsh, the young kite flyer whose kite and progressively larger ropes sent the cable across the gorge for the suspension bridge; and Capt. Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel. Also featured in the cemetery is a memorial to "Comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic," veterans of the Civil War.
The National Register of Historic Places, awarded through the National Park Service, 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.