The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

American cemetery gardens

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857. Cemeteries. These are very general in America; and, indeed, there are two or three to all the large towns. A public cemetery was formed in 1831 at Mount Auburn, about three miles from Boston, and is easily approached either by the road, or the river which washes its borders. On the eligibility of the situation, and the manner in which it should be laid out, a writer in the North American Review has the following remarks: - 'It affords every variety of soil and elevation which trees or flowers would require, with streams and meadows, from which ponds may be made for plants which love the water. The plants of every climate may find there a suitable home. It might be thought that it would require many years to cover it with verdure; but nature has anticipated this objection ; it being already clothed with trees and shrubs of almost all descriptions which grow in this part of the country. The most striking part of this tract is a conical hill of considerable height, which commands an extensive and beautiful prospect. This is reached by a gentle ascent, which winds like a road round the hill, with valleys on each side, and is so exact in its bearing, that it is difficult to persuade one's self that man had no agency in forming it' (North Amer. Rev., Oct. 1831.) The hill alluded to is Mount Auburn, which gives the cemetery its name, and which is 125 feet above the Charles River. 'This romantic and picturesque cemetery,' says Dr. Mease, 'is the fashionable place of interment with the people of Boston.' Spurzheim, who died in Boston, November 10th, 1832, was buried here. The tomb is an elegant but plain sarcophagus, erected by subscription, and bearing no other inscription than his name. Cemeteries at Philadelphia. 'Laurel Hill is about three miles and a half north of the city, on the river Schuylkill. The part devoted to interments embraces about twenty acres, and is laid out in the most tasteful manner. The entrance is a specimen of Doric architecture, through which is a pleasing vista, and on each side are lodges for the accommodation of the gravedigger and gardener; and within is a neat cottage for the superintendent, a Gothic chapel for funeral service, a large dwelling-house for visiters, a handsome receiving tomb, stabling for forty carriages, and a greenhouse. Besides the native forest trees on the place, several hundred more, and many ornamental shrubs, have been planted. The lots are enclosed by iron railings.' 'Recently attempts have been successfully made to plant every tree, foreign and domestic, which will bear the climate, and, in short, to convert the place into an arboretum.' (Dr. Mease in the Gard. Mag., for 1843, p. 666.) 'The Woodlands, on the west side of the river, within sight of the city, was the seat of the late William Hamilton, Esq., an ardent cultivator of botany. The road to the mansion is through a grove of native forest trees, and the view extensive. Of ninety-one acres, seventy-five are to be devoted to a cemetery.' (Ibid.) There are five or six other cemeteries in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, but those which have been mentioned are the most important. The burying-ground at Newhaven 'is laid out with more care and attention, and is better kept, than any ground devoted to the same purpose in the United States. It is of considerable site, and formed into broad lanes, shaded by weeping willows, poplars, &c. The whole has a good effect; many of the monuments are fine, and a considerable number of them were brought from Italy. In short, the burying-ground at Newhaven is quite the Pere la Chaise of the United States.' (Stuart's Three Years, &c., The cemetery of the Episcopal church of the town of Guildford is in a public square, and uninclosed. The graves are, therefore, trampled upon, and the monuments injured, both by men and cattle. On this cemetery Dr. Dwight makes the following judicious remarks : -'The design of locating places of burial in this manner was probably good. In its execution, however, it evidently defeats itself, while it is also a plain violation of property. Instead of producing those solemn thoughts, and encouraging those moral propensities, which it was intended to inspire, it renders death and the grave such familiar objects to the eye, as to prevent them from awakening any serious regard. Here, particularly, both the remains and memorials of the dead are presented to the mind in circumstances so gross, and indicative of so little respect in the living, as to eradicate every motion naturally excited by the remembrance of the deceased, and give to those which remain a coarseness and commonness, destructive of all moral influence. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that the proximity of those sepulchral fields to human habitations is injurious to health. Some of them have, I believe, been found to be offensive; and will probably be allowed to have been noxious. Even in cases where nothing of this nature is perceptible, it is far from being clear that effluvia too subtle to become an object of sense do not ascend in sufficient quantities to affect with disease, or at least with a predisposition to disease, those who, by living in the neighbourhood, are continually breathing these mischievous exhalations.' (Dwight's Travels in New England and New York, 8vo, London, 1823, vol. ii. p. 489.) In Virginia and Maryland almost every family mansion has its little grave-yard, sheltered by locust and cypress trees ; and one mansion on the Delaware, near Philadelphia, has the monument which marks the family resting-place, rearing itself in all the gloomy grandeur of black and white marble, exactly opposite the door of entrance. (Domestic Manners of the Americans, vol. ii. p. 153.)