Mount Auburn Cemetery: Wikis


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Mount Auburn Cemetery
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark District
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Location: Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts
Built/Founded: 1831
Architect: Alexander Wadsworth; Dr. Jacob Bigelow
Architectural style(s): Exotic Revival, Other, Gothic Revival
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: April 21, 1975
Designated NHLD: May 27, 2003
NRHP Reference#: 75000254[1]

Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as "America's first garden cemetery", or the first "rural cemetery", with classical monuments set in a rolling landscaped terrain.[2] The appearance of this type of landscape coincides with the rising popularity of the term "cemetery," which etymologically traces its roots back to the Greek for "a sleeping place." This language and outlook eclipsed the previous harsh view of death and the afterlife, pictorialized in old graveyards and church burial plots. The 174 acre (70 ha) cemetery is important both for its historical aspects and for its role as an arboretum. Most of the cemetery is located in Watertown, Massachusetts, though the 1843 granite Egyptian revival entrance lies in neighboring Cambridge, adjacent to the Cambridge City and Sand Banks Cemeteries.



Egyptian revival entrance to Mount Auburn Cemetery

The land that would eventually become Mount Auburn Cemetery was originally named Stone's Farm, though locals referred to it as "Sweet Auburn" after the 1770 poem "The Deserted Village" by Oliver Goldsmith.[3] Mount Auburn Cemetery was inspired by Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris and was itself an inspiration to cemetery designers, most notably at Abney Park in London. Mount Auburn Cemetery was designed largely by Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn with assistance from Dr. Jacob Bigelow and Alexander Wadsworth.

The cemetery is credited as the beginning of the American public parks and gardens movement. It set the style for other suburban American cemeteries such as Laurel Hill Cemetery (Philadelphia, 1836), Mt. Hope Cemetery, America's first municipal rural cemetery (Rochester, New York, 1838), Greenwood Cemetery (Brooklyn, 1838), The Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland 1838, Albany Rural Cemetery (Menands, New York, 1844) and Forest Hills Cemetery (Jamaica Plain, 1848) as well as Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York. It can be considered the link between Capability Brown's English landscape gardens and Frederick Law Olmsted's Central Park in New York (1850s).

The main tower in the Cemetery

Mount Auburn was established at a time when Americans had a sentimental interest in rural cemeteries.[4] It is still well known for its tranquil atmosphere and accepting attitude toward death. Many of the more traditional monuments feature poppy flowers, symbols of blissful sleep. In the late 1830s, its first unofficial guide, Picturesque Pocket Companion and Visitor's Guide Through Mt. Auburn, was published and featured descriptions of some of the more interesting monuments as well as a collection of prose and poetry about death by writers including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Willis Gaylord Clark.[5] Because of the number of visitors, the cemetery's developers carefully regulated the grounds: They had a policy to remove "offensive and improper" monuments and only "proprietors" (i.e., plot owners) could have vehicles on the grounds and were allowed within the gates on Sundays and holidays.[6] More than 80,000 people are buried in the cemetery, and a number of historically significant people have been interred there over the last 175 years, particularly members of the Boston Brahmins and the Boston elite associated with Harvard University as well as a number of prominent Unitarians.

Signs such as this one for Fir Avenue mark the various lanes in the cemetery

The cemetery is nondenominational and continues to make space available for new plots. The area is well known for its beautiful environs and is a favorite location for Cambridge bird-watchers. Guided tours of the cemetery's historic, artistic, and horticultural points of interest are available.

Mount Auburn's collection of over 5,500 trees includes nearly 700 species and varieties. Thousands of very well-kept shrubs and herbaceous plants weave through the cemetery's hills, ponds, woodlands, and clearings. The cemetery contains more than 10 miles (17 km) of roads and many paths. Landscaping styles range from Victorian-era plantings to contemporary gardens, from natural woodlands to formal ornamental gardens, and from sweeping vistas through majestic trees to small enclosed spaces. Many trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are tagged with botanic labels containing their scientific and common names.

The cemetery was among those profiled in the 2005 PBS documentary A Cemetery Special.

Notable burials

Mount Auburn Cemetery


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.  
  2. ^ Bunting, Bainbridge; Robert H. Nylander (1973). Old Cambridge. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge Historical Commission. pp. 69. ISBN 0262530147.  
  3. ^ Wilson, Susan. Literary Trail of Greater Boston. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000: 114. ISBN 0-618-05013-2
  4. ^ Douglas, Ann. The Feminization of American Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977: 210. ISBN 0-394-40532-3
  5. ^ Douglas, Ann. The Feminization of American Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977: 210–211. ISBN 0-394-40532-3
  6. ^ Douglas, Ann. The Feminization of American Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977: 211. ISBN 0-394-40532-3
  7. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963.  
  8. ^ Novick, Sheldon M. Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989: 200. ISBN 0-316-61325-8
  9. ^ Beers, Henry A. Nathaniel Parker Willis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913: 350.

See also

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