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Falls cemetery, 2 Buffalo projects receive Preservation League grants

The Preservation League of New York State has earmarked grants for a historic cemetery in Niagara Falls and a former public housing project and a neighborhood association, both in Buffalo.

The $5,000 grant to the Oakwood Cemetery Association of Niagara Falls is among those recently announced.

Other grants include $7,500 toward the cost of completing research and possible landmark designation for the former Willert Park public housing project in Buffalo and a previously announced grant of $9,500 to the city's Allentown Association to support a survey of cultural resources leading to expansion of the Allentown State and National Register Historic District.

"Since 1993, Preserve New York has provided over $1.5 million in direct support of 250 projects across the state, leveraging more than $20 million in additional project support and more than $500,000 in donated labor, services and materials," said Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League.

Tania Werbizky, the league's regional director of technical and grant programs in Western New York, said the grants in Erie and Niagara counties are among 17 projects in 14 counties that were approved by the Preserve New York grant program panel at its meeting in August. The projects will share a total of $109,149 in funding.

The Preservation League will present a $5,000 check to the Oakwood Cemetery Association during a ceremony at 3:30 p.m. today in the HSBC Meeting Room of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, 10th Street and Ferry Avenue.

The grant will support the cost of completing a historic landscape report for the cemetery on Portage Road, a few blocks north of the medical center.

The 18.3-acre cemetery is the work of civil engineer T.D. Judah of Niagara Falls. It reflects 19th century romantic landscape-design principles with its curvilinear paths and drives. A special feature of Oakwood is the 1913 stone mausoleum designed by the noted architectural firm Green and Wicks, embellished by a Tiffany Studios stained-glass window.

The $7,500 grant for the former Willert Park Courts, off Jefferson Avenue near William Street in Buffalo, is intended to build greater appreciation for this at-risk property that is included in the Preservation League's 2010 Seven to Save Endangered Properties list.

The housing project was built in 1939 for African-Americans, reflecting the "separate but equal" policy that permeated many aspects of society at the time.

Architectural critic Reyner Banham wrote in 1981 that "at the time of its completion, Willert Park was hailed as one of the finest public housing projects in the country, both for its planning concept and architectural design."

The project now is known as Alfred D. Price Courts in honor of Price, who for decades was the only African-American member of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and was the manager of Willert Park.

The $9,500 grant to Buffalo's Allentown Association was presented last fall at a ceremony in the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, 641 Delaware Ave.

"Primarily a residential neighborhood that developed as a streetcar suburb, Allentown's remarkable collection of buildings has received attention since the 1930s, sometimes in the face of demolition threats," the Preservation League said.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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