As Halloween approaches, our human curiosity regarding death and the afterlife gets played out in various and perhaps even gleeful ways. Macabre decorations adorn our dooways and activities associated with this autumnal celebration fill community calendars: haunted house openings, pumpkin extravaganzas, cemetery strolls. One cemetery you absolutely must consider if you are so inclined is Mt Auburn Cemetery, America’s first Garden Cemetery in Watertown/Cambridge (…more details after the images).
The concept of a garden cemetery came about in 1831, when the citizens of Boston were looking for a practical and aesthetic solution for burying the city?s deceased. The original architects of Mt Auburn Cemetery, Jacob Bigelow, Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn and Alexander Wadsworth drew their inspiration from the hauntingly beautiful Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, remarkable for its rolling hills, ancient trees, winding paths with distinctive “street” names, magnificent sculptures and elaborate grave markers. They envisioned a beautiful and tranquil setting for families to gather and find peace.
A walk through Mt Auburn Cemetery today assures us that the early founders achieved their goal. The landscape of rolling hills, ponds, sylvan paths and garden artifacts offers a tranquil sanctuary for both the living and the dead. Magnificent trees, labeled as you would expect in any arboretum, dominate the grounds. Elaborate and exquisite garden statuary is everywhere. Lanes and paths are named after botanical subjects. On any given day you will encounter folks from all generations enjoying this peaceful escape from urban life: birders, young mothers with strollers, and joggers.
Enjoy this visual stroll, and if you live within a reasonable distance, plan a visit to Mt Auburn Cemetery soon. It is open to the public every day of the year, although the gates close at different times depending on the season.