a seated angel is an example of the many
carved statues and unusual headstones that
attract visitors to Mount Auburn Cemetery.
and other such cemeteries opened in quick
succession, including Philadelphia’s Laurel
Hill (1836), New York’s Brooklyn Green-Wood
(1838), and, in Massachusetts, Jamaica Plain’s
own Forest Hills (1848). Eventually, the concept reached the West Coast with the opening
of Mountain View (1863) in Oakland, California. But the true test of an idea is in its staying
power, and by that measure, the “garden of the
dead” concept has proved to be a giant. Some
200,000 people visit Mount Auburn each year,
drawn by an ever-evolving version of its founders’ original idea. There are now more than
5,000 trees, many of them shining and rare examples of their kind and most of them tagged
for easy identification, and Washington Tower,
designed by Dr. Bigelow, sits on the cemetery’s
highest hill, with sweeping views
of Boston awaiting those who
climb its granite spiral stair. For
its part, Forest Hills straddles the
past and the present with enthu-
siasm and a love of the arts. Not far from the
graves of e.e. cummings and Eugene O’Neill
are Latin jazz concerts, a Sculpture Path lined
with contemporary works, and poetry readings
in Forsyth Chapel.
It seems that we don’t mind being reminded of death after all, especially when we
can enjoy being alive.
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