East Coast’s Most Famous Cemetery – An Amazing Day Trip!
I was panning on including Mt. Auburn Cemetery in my recent post about things to do in Boston. Then, I decided to separate it into it's own post. It is certainly worthy. Plus, it's in Cambridge, not Boston. It's semantics really, as it is just 4 miles from the city center. But it's a special place, so I have given Mt. Auburn it's own spot. 🙂 Trust me, it's worth it.
Historical Landmark - Plus
Mt. Auburn is America’s first garden cemetery and the first rural cemetery in the United States. The 174-acre cemetery is important both for its historical aspects and for its role as an arboretum. In 2003 it was designated a National Historic Landmark District for its pioneering role in 19th-century cemetery development. It has been referred to as the "Westminster Abbey" of the United States for it is not just a cemetery it is a peaceful oasis and is pretty amazing for it's design, landscaping, architectural beauties.
Mt. Auburn is quiet. It's a place for reflection. It is also active in ways you may not image for a cemetery, The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery offer guided walking tours, slide lectures, and special events at the cemetery. In addition to visiting the celebrities buried there, the Friends explore the history, horticulture, art, and architecture of the cemetery.
This group also started an "Artist-in-Residence" program. Carefully chosen film makers, musicians, sculptors, and writers use the cemetery as a muse for creation in their various genres. Though the program began in recent times, famous authors and artists have often wielded their craft based on a visit to Mt. Auburn, including Emily Dickinson who wrote about her visit in 1846. Modern artists often spend time here for their inspiration.
Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary leads bird-watching tours of Mount Auburn as well. Designation an Important Bird Area by the Massachusetts Audubon Society reinforces its status as a significant wildlife sanctuary.
I discovered this place when I was young as my family is interned here. I have loved going there ever since. That may sound odd to some, I know. But, I have always found cemeteries to be peaceful, interesting, and comforting in some small measure. As a child, after catechism, I would often walk the cemetery behind our parish before walking home.
There are also hundreds of famous people buried here, including; Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet James Russell Lowell, Amy Lowell (who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry), John Bartlett (compiler of the Familiar Quotations), publishers George H. Mifflin, Charles Little, and James Brown, as well as Dorothea Dix, who pioneered humane treatment for insanity, the painter Winslow Homer, Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, and many prominent members of the Boston Brahmins.
Mount Auburn Cemetery was purposefully not created around a church. This made it non-denominational, and it still is today. And, it was very thoughtfully designed not only as a cemetery, but as a combination of park and cemetery. You'll find that much of the acreage is devoted to conservation. So, all the beautiful lakes, grassy hills, and carefully planned nooks will remain for the estimated 250,000 visitors that travel Mt. Auburn's streets, all named after flowers, annually.
It's outside high walls and ornamental iron gates may appear foreboding, but don't let that stop you. Although the tours do go through, the massive size of the place offer ample areas to be alone. Besides the many tourists that visit each year, locals also often choose to spend a few hours here. (No picnics are allowed, it is still a place of rest for those passed.) Despite this. if you're looking for a beautiful and serene place to reflect, write, or find for solitude, you can fine it here.