By Jayne Glennon
Weeping cherries, magnolias and azaleas bloomed among intricately carved granite and marble grave stones. It was misty, sometimes rainy, with spring blossoms more vivid under the rain drops. Mt. Auburn Cemetery open in 1831 as America's first landscaped cemetery and green space open to the public. It is one of the most beautifully landscaped settings I have ever seen -- intertwined with an amazing collection of art and architecture. I left three hours after entering feeling only an introduction. Just beautiful, interesting -- and a great place to walk too!
I drove through the Egyption Revival Gatehouse along Mt. Auburn Street and found parking near the visitor center. A kiosk at the gatehouse offers information and pamphlets which cost a dollar or two each. A touch screen computer may be searched but I was anxious to get going so I headed to the visitor center to inquire about audio tours as an aid in finding famous graves. A friendly, informative woman suggested the walking tours were not introductory (but the driving audio tour is) and that I would be better off with a map/guide. ($1). So I took her advice. The pamphlet provides a list of Mt. Auburn Cemetery's notables, memorials and lots of interest, a monthly bloom agenda, bird viewing agenda and a directory of avenues and paths along with the map.
Two walking loops are painted green lines along the roads, like the Freedom Trail -- just follow the line. The inner loop is one mile, the outer loop two, both easy to follow and kept me from getting lost which is quite possible here. The map was necessary to find memorials and graves of interest. Isabella Stuart Gardner, Winslow Homer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Buckminster Fuller and Charles Bullfinch are a few of the notables buried here. Many of the paths laid out on the map are simply impressions in the grass and it is a bit of a challenge to find specific graves. Through the fog, I was able to find the resting place of Winslow Homer, marked by a small stone in a family plot. Admirers had placed small stones and seashells on the site.
The Washington Tower, approximately in the center of the property, claims to offer great views of Boston and Cambridge. The clouds were too low for me to see any distance but I looked down on the treetops. A winding stairway in the stone tower leads to two viewing levels, one surrounding the tower three quarters of the way up and the other on top. The shorter loop passes near the tower but does not lead directly to it.
A large memorial to Mary Baker Eddy dominates one of four ponds on the property. Weeping willows lean peacefully over the water's edge, where ducks and geese floated. With stealth and bravery I captured three shots of a coyote, before I realized it was fake. The groundskeepers were entertained!
Groups of people held binoculars and peered into the trees along the winding paths. Despite the worn coyotes, a large bird population finds sanctuary here, especially in May. A great variety of flowering trees, bushes and plants offer blooms from March into October. Expected blooming in late May are lilacs, rhododendrons, wisteria, jetbead and Japanese Snowbell among others. I look forward to revisit, to see each season unfold at this National Historic Landmark. I walked four hilly miles with a little added climb up the tower. Many more avenues remain unexplored. A great walk.
Mt. Auburn, spring 2014 walk
- Date: May 9, 2014
- Distance: 4.5 miles
- Weather: drizzle, 52 degrees
- Fee: none -- but I bought the map for $1
- Pets: no
- What I liked about this walk: Beautiful landscaping, blooms, interesting gravestones and memorials, art, two lovely chapels, ponds, birds, tower
- What I didn't like about this walk: a few cars along the avenues, maintenance people everywhere -- although necessary and it was a weekday