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James Neiss/staff photographerNiagara Falls, NY - Tania Webizky, regional director of the Preservation League of New York State, left, present the board of Oakwood Cemetery with a $5000 Preserve New York Grant toward the cost of completing a historic landscape report. On hand from left are, Landscape Architect Dean W. Gowen, Oakwood Cemetery Administrator Larry Steele, Secretary Peter Ames and Chairman of the Oakwood Cemetery preservation committee Tom Yots.

The New York State Preservation League presented a $5,000 check to Oakwood Cemetery’s Historic Preservation Committee on Wednesday in the HSBC Meeting Room at Niagara Falls Medical Center.

The money is being disbursed to Oakwood for completion of a historic landscape report, something that could lead to more preservation funding down the road at both state and national levels.

“The fact that we’re getting a grant today is a very important thing,” said Oakwood committee member Tom Yots.

Yots and the Oakwood committee hope this will be the beginning of something big for the cemetery, possibly putting it on a path toward being acknowledged on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This was an important first step for us to be able to be recognized by such a prestigious body such as the New York State Preservation League,” Yots said.

The landscape report -— being compiled by Snyder landscape architect Dean Gowen — will be a keystone in the committee’s future plans for restoring and preserving the 1852 site.

“Most people have no idea what’s beyond that fence,” Gowen said. “It’s like uncovering a hidden jewel.”

The 18.3-acre Portage Road site is the work of civic engineer T.D. Judah, who was more prominently known for his railroad designs than landscapes.

Oakwood was praised by the Preservation League for being a beautiful example of romantic 19th century landscaping, defined by curvilinear paths and drives.

“This pre-dates anything Olmsted did,” Gowen added.

The site also features a 1913 mausoleum designed by Green and Wicks featuring an embellished Tiffany stained-glass window.

Tania Werbizky, preservation league regional director of technical and grant programs, was on hand to present the grant check in person. She said Oakwood is only the third cemetery in the state to receive a grant for a landscape report from the Preservation League.

“This project makes excellent use of the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm of committee leaders, the hard-working board of the Oakwood Cemetery Association, preservationists and historians,” Werbizky said. “We will follow your progress with great interest.”

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