Construction has begun on a new home for the historic documents and genealogical records at Forest Lawn.
A formal groundbreaking ceremony for the Margaret L. Wendt Archive & Resource Center took place Monday morning on the Main Street side of the cemetery, next to the Erie County American Legion Veterans Section and across the street from the Canisius College Science Center.
The Margaret L. Wendt Center will house records dating back to the mid 19th century and will digitize and preserve the cemetery’s archives and maps. It also will provide electronic access for genealogical research.
Construction of the center was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. Wendt, a philanthropist and daughter of William Wendt, owner of Buffalo Forge, died in 1972 and is buried the Section 31 of the cemetery, not far from the center.
The John R. Oishei Foundation has provided an additional $50,000 grant for the center.
To accommodate the building, about 250 feet of cemetery fence along Main Street will be moved to allow access to the center during and after regular cemetery hours.
The Margaret L. Wendt Center will stand near the location of the barn on the homestead of pioneer civic and political leader Erastus Granger, whose estate was purchased to establish Forest Lawn in 1849. The center’s exterior is designed to resemble Granger’s barn.
“Everyone – great and meek, rich and poor, acclaimed or known only to a few – has been welcomed here for over a century and a half,” said Forest Lawn President Joseph P. Dispenza, “and now the public will have access to the records of those souls under our perpetual care.
“The trustees of the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation have created a well-deserved permanent legacy to a woman whose benevolence, fairness and kindness during and after her life is a lesson for all.”
Construction on the center is expected to be completed next spring. Schneider Design Architects PC of Buffalo designed the building. R&P Oak Hill Development of Buffalo is providing construction management services.