While recently visiting the art deco style Buffalo Fire Department Headquarters (195 Court Street – behind City Hall) I was asked whether I had ever seen the original Buffalo Volunteer Fire Department statue that had once adorned a grand marble monument at Forest Lawn Cemetery. I answered that I had not, and it was then that I was shown the 6′ 5″ white marble figure that was standing guard by the front entranceway. I inquired as to how the statue had made its way to this location and was told that I would have to visit the cemetery to find out that information.
This morning I headed over to Forest Lawn to talk to longtime cemetery ‘de facto’ historian Pat Cavanaugh. He told me that many of the Forest Lawn records dating back to the turn of the century were not kept in perfect order, and that he would do his best to answer my questions. I showed him the photo that I had taken of the statue and he exclaimed, “That’s the original volunteer fire department monument that was unveiled in 1870. It was designed and sculpted by William Lautz. From what I understand, the monument was in pretty bad shape and needed to be replaced. This (bronze – 12′ 6″ statue with 17′ high granite pedestal) replacement monument [pointing] was erected four days after McKinley was shot.”
I then checked The City’s online records, which showed that the original statue had been donated to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society in 1901. From there it had somehow made its way to Buffalo Fire Department Headquarters. Records show that the treatment to the Lautz statue was performed by McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, Inc. in 1999, thus restoring the work of art from a condition of poor to that of excellent. Buffalo is lucky to have two impressive monuments dedicated to the memories of those who have served in the City and County Reserve Fire Departments. We’re also lucky to have such a cool downtown fire department headquarters (built in 1931) to house the original marble creation.