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Concordia Cemetery: 150 Years of Buffalo’s History Needs Your Help

Everyone is
for saving historic buildings, reusing historic churches and restoring historic
parks, but what about a place that holds not only history, but the people who
helped to make it? Concordia Cemetery is the final resting place for
thousands of early residents of Buffalo, including over 450 war veterans of
which 125 are Civil War veterans. Currently there are over 16,800 people in the
15 acres that forms Concordia.

One of the
oldest cemeteries in Western New York, it opened in 1859–two years before
Abraham Lincoln became president, to give you an idea of how long ago that
really was. Other than the venerable Forest Lawn, Concordia is Buffalo’s only
other cemetery, tucked away on the East Side. (Correction: St Francis Xavier Cemetery is another cemetery within city borders.)

Though it
was founded when Buffalo was two-fifths German, by three German
congregations–St. Peter’s German Evangelical Church (1835), St. Stephen’s
Evangelical Church (1853), and First Trinity Lutheran Church (1839)–Concordia
came to be the final resting place of people of all ethnic backgrounds. 

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As luck (the
bad kind) would have it, Concordia was abandoned in 2003 after its former
treasurer stole the cemetery funds.  A group of family members of
those buried at Concordia came forth and volunteered, working hard to
accomplish much, but they are few in number after all of this time, and the
upkeep is hard work. One volunteer with more than 60 relatives buried in
Concordia, spent many hours at the cemetery working and organizing cemetery
records into computer search files. In addition, Concordia Cemetery has been
added to the National Register of Historic Places and the New York State
Register of Historic Places.

After
performing maintenance of the grounds, repairing the Victorian iron fence and
replacing the arched gate that had been stolen–along with repairing toppled
and broken grave stones–these few volunteers are no longer able to do all of
the work required. (Can we say
they’re not as young and strong as they used to be?)  

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There are no more
burial plots for sale, and Concordia, it seems, is once again at risk of
abandonment.  

The word
“Concordia” means harmony, and the current caretakers are hoping that
there are volunteers in the community who will blend with them in caring for
the cemetery.

Those
involved with the cemetery note a recent quote about Buffalo from The National
Trust for Historic Preservation: “This lakeside city harbors an unexpected
discovery around every corner. Offering a staggering range of cultural
resources…”  Those who have labored over this sacred and
historic place believe that Concordia is one of these hidden resources, and
they’d like some help in preserving it. 

Interested
volunteers can contact Diane Pesch-Savatteri at 716.685.2648 for more
information. 

[Update:  New Oxford Square resident and cemetery expert, John Bry, has confirmed that there are in fact 3 cemeteries in Buffalo proper and that St. Francis is the third, not mentioned in this article.

Bry went beyond that to say, “There is a
contact person from the city that has stepped in as a temporary trustee, and
the State Division of Cemeteries is working with them. But no further
interments will take place at Concordia until the cemetery can be brought into
compliance with mapping and coordination of lot sales. Until then, to me, the
cemetery is a passive cemetery now (or what I call a neighbortery) Not that
there is anything wrong with that. The cemetery can become a cultural location,
but that also means finding ways to bring in revenue and maintain the property
with no money coming in from traditional space sales. Tours, memberships,
grants are just a few possibilities.

“Forest Lawn
was designed as a park style/rural movement/aesthetic movement cemetery. People
call it different things, but the difference is it retains much more of its
park like setting, it was built on a far larger scale, and is more active.
The German influence at Corcordia never took on the refined form of landscape
design like Forest Lawn, but is still significant for its cultural
influence as an ethnic interpretation of 19th century burial and memorial
trends.”

As a point of interest, Bry is in Indiana this weekend, delivering his “Moonlight at the Mausoleum” Irish wake themed event in a mausoleum built by his family in 1917.  John was particularly tickled to find out the Irish band from Indianaolis that he hired was “founded by a guy from South Buffalo.”]

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