Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Highlights of Rural Mt Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts

I would imagine each time you visit Mt. Auburn, the first rural cemetery in the Untied States you will discover more unique features. This was my first visit to the 175 acres and just a short list.

Mt. Auburn the first rural garden cemetery in the United States was inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Unrelated to this list but just as an FYI Jim Morrison of the Doors is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery. The word cemetery has Greek origin, it means sleeping place.



Mt. Auburn, the first rural cemetery was designed largely by Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn with assistance from Jacob Bigelow and Alexander Wadsworth cousin of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It set the style for other suburban American cemeteries such as Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, established 1836.

The Egyptian Revival Gate Entrance at Mt. Auburn was designed by Jacob Bigelow. It was originally crafted of wood dusted with stone in 1832.  It was rebuilt of Quincy granite in 1842.





Story Chapel designed by Willard Sears in 1896 -1898 is named for the first president of the Mount Auburn Association, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, he dedicated the cemetery, September 24, 1831. The chapel is used for memorial services and houses the visitor center.  Stop in the woman at the desk, mindful of our limit time directed us to some of the top spots, there are many. I flet like we were given a private tour through her enthusiasm before we even entered the cemetery grounds.  She also told an interesting story of the ridge that runs along Indian Path. It is from a rare glacier formation.






The first reception house was designed by Nathaniel J. Bradlee, and like the cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The second building was designed by Willard Sears, and is built of Potsdam sandstone in what Sears termed "English Perpendicular Style". The chapel in this building was redecorated in 1929 by Allen and Collins to include stained glass by New England artist Earl E. Sanborn.


Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838), mathematician, seaman and author's monument was the first life size bronze to be cast in America. It was sculpted by Robert Ball Hughes.




Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)  was an American poet with Paul Revere's Ride as the most popular of his poems in my mind. I was later to discover the red trail marked through the streets of Cambridge on my way to Mt. Auburn was the trail of Paul Revere. I found an animated reading of the poem on Youtube. Click on Paul Revere's Ride above if interested. Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine which was part of Massachusetts at the time, another link to history I did not know. He first attended Bowdin at age 15 and it was here that he met longtime friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. He became a boarder at the previous location of George Washington's Headquarter's in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the siege of Boston now known as Longfellow National Historic Site. This home was later purchased for him and his family by his father-in-law. The Longfellow family were the last family to reside in the home. It is located at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is now owned by the NPS and is open to the public. I did not get to see the house, another trip another time.


The Mary Baker Eddy (1821 - 1910) Monument provides a natural and beautiful reflection on Halcyon Pond. Eddy founded the Christian Science Monitor partly to speak against the yellow journalism of the day. Hearst, Pulitzer and Mark Twain were not fans. Ironically, the Christian Science Monitor has won 7 Pulitzer Prizes. There is a huge amount of information about her and her life at Wikipedia.Val Kilmer has an original film entitled Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain.  Whereas the two had never met, the film suggests their thoughts.


Jacob Bigelow  graduated from Harvard College in 1806 and then studied under John Gorham. He then graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school in 1810. He has been credited with the idea of the rural cemetery from his concern of the unhealthy way of burying bodies under churches and running out of space in the church burial grounds. He was a critic of Benjamin Rush and heroic medicine.


Bigelow Chapel was built in the 1840s and rebuilt in the 1850s, of Quincy granite, and was renovated in 1899 under the direction of architect Willard Sears to accommodate a crematorium. Its interior was again renovated in 1924 by Allen and Collins. Through all of these alterations, stained glass windows by Scottish firm of Allan and Ballantyne were preserved. The chapel is used for memorial services and Friends of Mt. Auburn programs. The door was locked, we couldn't get in.  I tried.




American Sphinx (1872) designed by Marttin Milmore was commissioned by Bigelow at the end of the Civil War to commemorate the preservation of the Union and the destruction of African slavery.


The Dell is located at heart of the cemetery the lowest point geographically. You take the steps, the winding paths and meander down to the natural vernal pond that has formed by rainfall and snow melt.  This is where the cemetery was consecrated and resembles what the cemetery originally would have looked like in the 1830's.


The pine trees in this area are said to be the spot where the Great Horned Owls hang out. I looked but no luck this day.



Washington Tower was designed by Bigelow and built in 1852–54. It was named for George Washington, the 62-foot tower was built of Quincy granite and provides excellent views of the area. It is the highest point in the cemetery. It is not that bad of a climb but once you are up there you feel like you are pretty high up.


The view from atop the tower with a telephoto lens is spectacular. Bostonian's can probably identify  at least 5 or 6 historical buildings in this picture. Since I sidetracked on my way to Boston this weekend, I will have to learn the identities another day. Boston like Philadelphia can not be viewed from a distance and in a few short hours to appreciate its contribution to the formation of the United States.



What I did not expect from the top of tower was the aerial show provided by this very special red-tailed hawk. He put on such a spiritual and soaring demonstration, I could not help to record his majesty. In a perfect world if there were no copyright issues I would add "Fly Like an Eagle" by Steve Miller as the background music or "I Can Fly" by R. Kelly.  Feel free to hum or sing along in your head as you watch.  It works.







1 comment:

  1. The Cemetery in Massachusetts is so wonderful and quiet place. Your photos are stunning!

    ReplyDelete