Let’s say that someone needs to buy a gift for a friend or family member, in order to share or inspire a love of cemeteries. I’ve compiled a list of books that every cemetery devotee should have in his or her library. What’s your favorite? What’s the best place to start someone new?
I’ve reviewed all of these books here on Cemetery Travel in the last year. You can find individual reviews by searching for the specific book title in that little box on the upper right. You can see all my cemetery book reviews by clicking “book review” under the Categories list on the right-hand column.
I’ve included a mixture of brand-new books with old classics. There should be something for every price range. If you would like more recommendations, let me know. I had a hard time limiting myself to 10 books.
If there are books that should be included on this poll that I’ve missed, please feel free to add them!
As always, there is no way to link your preference below back to you. You may vote in complete anonymity.
Morton’s book does a great job of introducing an unfamiliar visitor to the cemetery. She introduces the important permanent residents with an appropriate amount of information, then focuses on the lovely and unusual statuary in the cemetery’s permanent collection. She includes Cleveland-area history, illustrated with just the right number of vintage photographs. She discusses the varieties of nationalities-of-birth represented in Lake View.
My chief issue with this cemetery guide is the cover photo, which — while hinting at the diversity of monuments within Lake View Cemetery — gives no indication how beautiful the place is. Even in mid-November, with most of the leaves already drifted to the grass, Lake View is a gem of garden cemetery design.
I found this book in the shop at the Cleveland Clinic, which turns out to be just down the road from Lake View Cemetery. Morton’s guidebook encouraged me to visit Lake View for myself. I am so glad I did. The restful beauty was exactly the respite I needed from my hospital vigil.
Lake View Cemetery
12316 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-2415
Email: email@example.com Established: 1869 Size: 285 acres Number of interments: Over 105,000 Open: Daily from 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. The Garfield Monument and Wade Chapel are open daily between April 1 and mid-November from 9 a.m. until 4.
Cleveland, Ohio’s Lake View Cemetery is a large, lovely rural garden cemetery that climbs a ridge east of town and provides spectacular views of Lake Erie and the metropolis stretching westward below. The cemetery also performs as an arboretum, in which many of the trees labeled.
Beneath the stately old trees, much of the cemetery is full of heavy granite markers, but among them stand some marvelous works of art, including the warrior archangel Michael, guarding the grave of John M. Hay, Secretary of State under President William McKinley. Two grieving women, reminiscent of the Duke of Burgundy’s Mourners, attend the sarcophagus of the E. M. Peck family. More modern figures climb the heavy granite monument to the Evans family, re-purposed from the family’s swimming pool.
Lake View Mourner
Just inside the Euclid Gate stands the poignant monument to the 175 victims of the Collinwood School fire, in which an angel protects children with her arms. The unexplained fire struck the relatively new building in March 1908. Teachers managed to save half their charges, but some children panicked and fell, blocking the stairwell so that others couldn’t escape. The tragedy brought national attention to the issue of school safety for the first time.
Another of Lake View’s treasures is the Wade Chapel. The classical building is named for Jeptha H. Wade, who served as one of the cemetery’s first presidents. His namesake grandson hired Louis Comfort Tiffany and gave him carte blanche to design the chapel, which is unusual amongst cemetery buildings because it does not contain any permanent remains. Tiffany designed the breathtaking Resurrection window, which functions as the room’s focal point, in addition to the Biblical murals lining the walls. Because Tiffany refused to have soot besmirch his artwork, his friend Thomas Edison wired the chapel for electric lights, making it the first building with electricity in Cleveland.
The showpiece of Lake View Cemetery is the monument to assassinated President James A. Garfield. Garfield was born in a log cabin in Cuyahoga County. Although his father died when he was 2, he was elected to the Ohio Senate, a post he left to serve as a Major General in the Civil War. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, then the U.S. Senate, but received the Republican nomination for President before he took office. He served four months of his presidential term before a deranged fan shot him in the back. One of the bullets lodged in his spine. Garfield lingered for 80 days, before infection from his inept doctors’ unsterilized fingers finished him off.
Nine years after his death, the President was laid to rest inside this monument, which has been called the first true mausoleum in America, since it serves both as his tomb and a tribute to his memory. The structure combines Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine architecture in a tower, domed interior, and crypt. A statue of Garfield captures him as if he’s just stepped out of his chair, a roll of parchment clutched in his hand. Around the room, stained glass windows embody the 13 original colonies as secular maidens. A maiden representing Ohio joins them as a gilded mosaic.
Garfield’s coffin lies in the crypt, alongside his wife Lucretia. Their daughter Molly, who was 14 at the time of the assassination, and her husband Joseph Stanley-Brown, who served as Garfield’s private secretary, are inurned nearby.
November 18th is Garfield’s birthday; this past Saturday celebrated his 180th birthday. Wreaths were laid, flags presented, and both boy scouts and girl scouts toured the monument. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and was able to enjoy the celebration and explore the tomb before it closed for the winter.
Lake View Cemetery presents a full schedule of events, including moonlight nature walks, architectural walking tours, and much, much more. The calendar is online here. Check back for 2012 events.
Upcoming on December 3, 2011 is a tree-trimming at the grave of Rev. H. C. Schwann, who is credited with bringing the first candle-lit Christmas tree into a church in 1851. The tree-trimming will be followed in the afternoon by a program of holiday music and lights outside the Wade Chapel.
In its history, New York City has dug up and covered over dozens of burial grounds. Carolee Inskeep tracked them down. Written encyclopedia-style, The Graveyard Shift lists hundreds of graveyards, along with years of usage and some brief historical information. Since Inskeep’s book is designed for family historians, she includes information on where records can be found and contact information.
My chief complaint about the text is that it includes no illustrations: no photos of famous New Yorkers, no beautiful gravestones, no historic photos or other ephemera. The loss is more keenly felt since the little cover photo of a graveyard chock-full of simple crosses and grieving muses — with the Empire State Building rising behind — is really perfect for the book. In my edition, the photo is neither identified or credited. I am guessing it’s taken from Queens. Please correct me if that’s wrong: it’s a place I’d love to see for myself.
74 Trinity Place (Broadway at Wall Street)
New York, NY 10006 Founded: prior to 1697 Number of interments: Tens of thousands, according to The Graveyard Shift Open: Weekdays 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Holidays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3.
One of the oldest surviving graveyards in Manhattan is Trinity Churchyard, at the head of Wall Street. The original New Yorkers used the area north of the church as a graveyard even before the King of England granted land to the parish in 1697. Three centuries later, skyscrapers overshadow the spire of the old church and its beautiful old tombstones.
The most famous permanent resident of Trinity Churchyard is Alexander Hamilton, who served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp, commanded troops at the Battle of Yorktown, became the first Secretary of the Treasury and conceived a plan to pay off the debts incurred during the Revolutionary War. He died in 1804 died after a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr.
The original monument still marks Hamilton’s grave, erected by the Vestrymen of Trinity Church, who I’m sure were thrilled to score such an illustrious addition to their churchyard. Hamilton’s epitaph reads, “The Corporation of Trinity Church Has erected this Monument In Testimony of their Respect For The Patriot of incorruptible Integrity, The Soldier of approved Valor, the Statesman of consummate Wisdom, Whose Talents and Virtues will be admired By Grateful Posterity Long after this Marble shall have mouldered into Dust.”
Other historic personages buried in the old churchyard were not immediately celebrated by their contemporaries. Francis Lewis, the only signer of the Declaration of Independence buried on Manhattan Island, lies in Trinity Churchyard somewhere. Trinity’s Register of Burials lists him, without noting the location of his grave. Instead, he’s remembered by a bronze plaque placed near the church in 1947 by the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration. Also buried here is Robert Fulton, a painter who developed the first practical steamboat as well as a submarine for use in torpedo attack. In 1901, eighty-six years after Fulton’s death, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers erected a monument to him.
Remembered at the time of his death was William Bradford, the first man in the Colonies to assert the freedom of the press. On his 200th birthday in 1863, an exact copy replaced his original gravestone at the behest of the New York Historical Society. That same pride in the city’s history shielded Trinity Churchyard’s priceless real estate from changes that might have engulfed it.
You can pick up a cemetery guide inside the church. The church encourages people to eat their lunches on the cemetery benches and to come inside for a service or to see the crypt. A schedule of events, including concerts or readings of Shakespeare, is online here.
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