Broderick Park has long been a spot of contemplation for Buffalo Quarters Historical Society founder Lillion Batchelor, as she imagined the hundreds of escaped African-American slaves who used the park as their launch to freedom across the Niagara River and into Canada.
Batchelor, who has helped bring national and international attention to the pocket park at the foot of West Ferry Street and its role in the Underground Railroad, was recognized Wednesday by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, who dedicated a contemplative garden at the newly restored park in her honor.
“We are very pleased to stand here on sacred ground, ground that is of historic significance.
Broderick Park is listed on the National Underground Railroad Network and is recognized by historians as the terminus for the Underground Railroad between the United States and Canada,” Brown said, just prior to the surprise unveiling of a new plaque at the park in Batchelor’s honor.
“I am also pleased to announce ... that we are celebrating a very special woman who never lost sight of the goal of bringing improvement and attention to this historic Buffalo waterfront park. Lillion Batchelor ... was instrumental in getting Buffalo recognized for its role in the Underground Railroad movement,” Brown added.
The new $2.4 million Lillion Batchelor Contemplative Garden at Broderick Park is part of $11.8 million in improvements to the park, paid for with federal and state grants. The project, which wrapped up this month, included the installation of new sidewalks, railings, lighting and landscaping, as well as the construction of a new picnic shelter and amphitheater, and completion of a new lift bridge and Bird Island Pier.
“The new garden commemorates the site’s historical significance, giving visitors a place for contemplation and relaxation,” said Brown.
A Buffalo native who spent part of her childhood in Ohio, near the Mason-Dixon Line, Batchelor developed an early interest in African-American history.
Batchelor said she learned of the park’s significance in the Underground Railroad from some historical papers that were part of a collection at the Buffalo Historical Society Museum and has since brought attention to it through re-enactments and other activities at the park.