The First Garden Cemetery: Mount Auburn

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the first significant cemetery in the United States was born in 1831. It was different also because it was the first of its kind that did not have any connections to a church or parish in the city. The garden cemeteries that followed would use Mount Auburn as an example. In this article, you will learn more about the infamous Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Situated in a rural setting, Mount Auburn was a blend of ideas that came from reformers and botanists, who would transform plots of land into places that were visually inviting to visit, and equally benefited the living and the dead.

The first garden cemetery officially broke ground in September of 1831. At first, the deceased were not immediately placed on the grounds because all of the people who had reserved plots at the cemetery were still living. The cemetery remained without a grave for nine months until the death of a child belonging to a Boston family. She was buried at Mount Auburn and the cemetery was then opened for public review.

The press had a field day and the public was so impressed with the cemetery that they exhumed their relatives from other churchyards and had them reinterred in the garden setting. The financial benefits of this trend were welcomed with open arms. The smallest size that a communal plot for a family of four measured 15 by 20 feet, and was priced at just $60.

A Movement in Art

The new garden cemeteries also involved the talents of artists who shaped monuments and other sculptures out of marble and bronze as a way to decorate the grounds. Some of the best sculptors in the world were employed to work for Mount Auburn. The cemetery boasted a Gothic chapel, Baroque tower, and an entranceway fashioned with the details of Egyptian culture. The obelisk and sphinx became popular symbols that were placed on gravestones, as well as Egyptian symbols of death, such as the winged globe, lotus flowers, and the serpent devouring its tail.

The Rules of Mount Auburn

Since no one visited the old church graveyards, the grounds were open to the public on a continuous basis. There were also no rules that people had to follow. However, with Mount Auburn, people could only visit from sunrise to sunset. In the beginning, the cemetery drew in more spectators than mourners. The grounds came with their own set of rules. For example, horse-drawn carriages could only travel at the same pace as a slow walk. No one could bring in food or drink past the entranceway. No one could pick the flowers on the grounds. Everyone basically had to be on their best behavior. Mount Auburn was a place that people actually came to relax and enjoy family outings , al in the midst of the deceased.

Famous Residents

Mount Auburn is the final resting place to many notable characters in history. Well-known poets were laid to rest in the cemetery, including Oliver Wendell Holmes (1894), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1882), and Amy Lowell (1925). The editor of the collection, Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett, was laid to rest in Mount Auburn. Some of the greats of well-known Boston publishing firms also call Mount Auburn their home in the afterlife: Charles Little (1869) and George Houghton Mifflin (1921). Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science religious movement was buried in the cemetery in 1910.