After our architectural education during the Open Air Bus tour of Buffalo, we arrived back in the Elmwood Village and headed for lunch to Ahskers Bar – Bistro – Gallery. A hot steaming soup warmed me up enough to take a quick walk up and down Elmwood Avenue. Many of the houses here were built In the Queen Anne style in the early 1900s and have cafes, restaurants or shops on the main floor. Bidwell Parkway is a part of the original parkway system that was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux. One of Buffalo’s most popular residential areas today, the Elmwood Village has been named one of the “Top 10 Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association.
On a sunny September afternoon we continued our explorations of the Elmwood Village on the side streets and took in the pleasant neighbourhood as well as local sights such as the Buffalo Seminary and the First United Methodist Church. Other important destinations in this neighbourhood include Buffalo State College, the Kleinhans Music Hall, the Albright-Knox Art Art Gallery, the imposing Richardson-Olmsted Complex, the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. In addition, the Elmwood Village is full of cafes, restaurants and retail shops, a great place to hang out on a Saturday.
After our introduction to the Elmwood Village, we continued our explorations of Buffalo with a visit to the historic Forest Lawn Cemetery. This huge burial ground was founded in 1849, covers more than 269 acres (more than 1 km2) and is the last resting place for more than 155,000 souls. We joined the “Sundays in the Cemetery” tour which started at the Chapel, a beautiful gathering space built in 1882 in the Gothic Revival Style that was recently renovated. On our walk into the cemetery, we soon got surprised by the appearance of a historic character, the owner of an early 1900s car factory and a resident of the cemetery, who told us colourful stories of his era. We were going to run into several additional historic characters along the way.
Our “Sundays in the Cemetery” tour continued on the manicured lawns of the Forest Lawn Cemetery past many historic mausoleums and gravesites. Although a last resting place for more than 150,000 people, this cemetery is a true place of natural beauty, with its rolling hills, the winding Scajaquada Creek and several ponds that are adorned by statues. At our next stop we were greeted by another historical figure: Sarah M. Hinson (1841 to 1926), a Buffalo school teacher and founder of Flag Day – June 14 which commemorates the adoption of the US flag.
On this blustery yet sunny Sunday afternoon we continued our walking tour of Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery and our expert guide Nancy Cardillo did a fabulous job of explaining this burial ground’s history and personalities to our large group. We stopped at a large memorial to Giuseppe Verdi and just up the street we were greeted by an American president: Millard Filmore (1800 to 1874) was the 13th President of the United States and is buried in this cemetery. He had grown up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, co-founded the University at Buffalo, and helped with the foundation of the Buffalo General Hospital and the Buffalo Historical Society.
Another famous resident of Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery is Rick James, born as James Ambrose Johnson Jr. (1948 to 2004), and he is most famous for his 1980’s hit “Super Freak”. James lived hard and partied hard and died of heart failure at the age of 56. Close by we met Dorothy Goetz (1892 to 192) the first wife of famous songwriter Irving Berlin. She was born here in Buffalo and died of typhoid after their honeymoon in Cuba. Dressed in a gorgeous blue and lilac dress, Dorothy gave us a beautiful live rendition of one of Irving Berlin’s songs.
There were many more interesting stories and impressions waiting for us on this tour of the historic Forest Lawn Cemetery.