This is an amazing book. It’s huge, heavy, stuffed with full-color photographs — and some weird stuff too, including 3D photos complete with cardboard glasses. The book explores 31 cemeteries, some glancingly and others in great depth. It’s definitely Chicago-centric in the gravesites it visits (and even indulges in visits to the author’s relatives), but there is much to attract a visitor or someone with even less familiarity with the Windy City.
I’m not entirely sure what order the cemeteries appear in, but I think it’s geographic. A map would have helped to orient me.
I was, however, very impressed that one of the first gravesites to be featured in the book is the marker in memory of Emmett Louis Till, the 14-year-old from Chicago who was mutilated and murdered because a white woman said he flirted with her. Dinah Washington is buried in the same cemetery, but her story is told in less detail.
The book talks about the one-of-a-kind architecture and artwork that graces Chicago’s cemeteries, as well as exploring the city’s history from trappers to farmers to railroads and stockyards to gangsters to politicians. Famous names appear — from Jesse Owens to Al Capone — but smaller stories sometimes have more emotional weight, like the tale of the creator of Cracker Jack, whose grandson posed for the original image of Jack, or Cale Cramer, who died in a train wreck saving his passengers. It visits the graves of those killed in the St. Valentine’s Massacre and the victim of Leopold and Loeb, but it tells love stories, too.
The lovely landscapes are captured in every season from the first buds of spring to snow blanketing the graves. I can’t say enough about the beautiful statuary captured by Broutman’s camera. Chicago really does have a wealth of artwork, available to anyone who walks in the cemetery gates.
If you are interested in American statuary, history, or cemeteries, this book is a must-have. Amazon is having on sale on it now — and the price is a bargain: https://amzn.to/2uDyDlt
Olivet Memorial Park
Also called Mount Olivet Cemetery
1601 Hillside Boulevard
Colma, California 94014
Telephone: (650) 755-0322
Size: 65 acres
Number of Interments: 100,000
At the foot of San Bruno Mountain in the cemetery town of Colma lies Olivet Memorial Park, which proclaims itself as a “Cemetery for All Faiths.” It was founded as Mount Olivet Cemetery by Austen Walrath (buried here in 1902) with the backing of the Abbey Land and Improvement Company.
San Francisco architect William H. Crim Jr. designed the Old English Abbey Chapel, as well as the Columbarium and “Incinerary.” Cremation began at Olivet as early as 1911. Since then, the cemetery has cremated more than 45,000 people.
Some of its earliest cremation retorts were designed by Mattrup Jensen, who took over as superintendent from Walrath. Jensen’s crematory retorts were used by cemeteries across the US. He believed that Colma cemeteries should be designed to look like outdoor cathedrals. Jensen eventually became the first mayor of Lawndale, before the town changed its name to Colma.
The striking 18-foot-tall black granite monument to the Sailors Union of the Pacific was sculpted by John Stoll. It bears the legend: “And the sea shall give up its dead — from every latitude here rest our brothers of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.” California governor Earl Warren dedicated the sculpture in 1946 to remember the 6,000 merchant marines who died over the course of World War II. Many others have been buried in the plot since.
Another monument remembers the Showfolks of America. The national organization, made up of circus or carnival people, held conventions in San Francisco after 1945. The area around the clown-faced monument is known as Showmen’s Rest. It was filled with clowns and other performers by the 1990s.
When he was captured near Oroville in 1911, the man called Ishi was believed to be the last survivor of the Yahi tribe. Called “the last survivor of Stone Age California,” he was brought to the University of California in San Francisco, where he lived until his death of tuberculosis in 1916. He never revealed his true name. Alfred Kroeber, the anthropologist who studied him, called him Ishi, which simply means man in Yahi. He was cremated at Olivet and the cemetery’s columbarium held his remains in a “modest dark vase set on a dark green marble base.” He may have created his own burial urn.
After his death, his brain had been removed during an autopsy. The brain was rediscovered by anthropologists in the Smithsonian Institution in 1997. It was reunited with his ashes and transferred to an undisclosed location.
Also buried here is Arthur “Doc” Barker, the youngest member of the Barker gang. He was arrested for the last time in January 1935 for the kidnapping of Minnesota banker Edward G. Bremer. After Barker was transferred to Alcatraz, he died leading an escape attempt in 1939, when he was shot in the head. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Olivet’s unendowed Cosmos Plot.
Another Alcatraz inmate, Joseph “Dutch” Bowers, was arrested for robbing a post office in 1931. He was the first inmate to attempt escape when he climbed a fence in front of the guards and was shot and killed in April 1936. Other inmates believed that Alcatraz had driven him crazy. Bowers is buried in an unmarked grave.
Silent film actress Marguerite de La Motte appeared in over 50 films. She worked with Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro and The Three Musketeers, but made only four talking pictures before she retired from the film business. She died in 1950 at the age of 47 and was cremated here. She has a modest niche in the columbarium.
Singer Danniebelle Hall, who died in 2000, combined gospel with dance music. Her epitaph in the mausoleum proclaims her “The Designer’s Original.”
Rock Creek Cemetery
201 Allison St NW, Washington, DC 20011 Telephone: (202) 726-2080 Founded: 1719 Size: 86 acres Numbers of interments: 13,000 interments or more Open: Open daily, including holidays, from 8 am to 6 pm. The office is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. GPS coordinates for the Adams Memorial: 38° 56’ 55” N 77° 0’ 32” W
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish, began in 1712 as a mission church. It is the only surviving colonial church in what is now Washington, DC. According to the church’s website, “The cemetery’s beautiful, park-like setting is now a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world, who come to see the remarkable variety of monuments and sculpture and often to visit the renowned Adams Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.”
In September 1719, vestryman Colonel John Bradford donated 100 acres for the support of the church, which determined the site of the chapel. The land was logged, then farmed, and the proceeds supported the church for many years. Almost from the start, though, the area directly surrounding the church was used as a burial ground for parishioners. Some of those old grave markers still survive.
View of the goldfish pond
In the 1830s, the church decided to expand the area it used for burials and convert its land from farming to a public graveyard. Inspired by the success of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, they utilized the natural rolling landscape when they laid out the roads like a rural cemetery. An Act of Congress established Rock Creek Cemetery as a burial ground for the city of Washington.
In the early 20th century, the church sold 14 acres of their graveyard for the construction of New Hampshire Avenue.
The Adams Memorial, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
The memorial that everyone comes to see belongs to Henry Brooks Adams, a grandson of John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the US, and great-grandson of John Adams, the second president. Henry Brooks Adams himself was a Professor of Medieval History at Harvard. His autobiography won a Pulitzer Prize, but he considered The History of the United States of America 1801 to 1817 to be his masterwork. After his wife Marian (called Clover) committed suicide by poisoning herself with photographic chemicals in DC, he commissioned Augustus Saint-Gaudens to sculpt a monument to her. The statue is commonly referred to as Grief, but Saint-Gaudens called it The Mystery of the Hereafter and the Peace of God that Passeth Understanding.
I assumed that a world-famous memorial might be easy to locate, but since we visited on a Sunday, the office was closed. Church had let out for the day, save for choir practice, which I didn’t want to interrupt. After wandering for an hour – and admiring lots of lovely sculpture – we turned to the internet. The photo I found on Findagrave showed the memorial on a hill, facing away from the slope. We couldn’t find that view anywhere. The first GPS coordinates my husband Mason found led us back to the cemetery gate. Eventually we were able to find a map of the cemetery online that included section designations. The Adams Memorial is in section E.
The Adams Memorial’s cypress are in the distance here.
After you enter the cemetery, head toward the church. Before you reach it, turn right. Down slope from you, you will see a family plot encircled by a hedge of cypress trees. You have to walk through the hedge to find the statue.
The cemetery has a wealth of lovely sculpture. These include Rabboni by Gutzon Borglum (sculptor of Mount Rushmore) on the grave of Charles M. Ffoulkes, a Washington banker who collected tapestries; The Seven Ages of Memory by William Ordway Partridge, on the grave of Samuel H. Kauffman, who owned the Washington Star; and Brenda Putnam’s statue of a child on Anna Simon’s grave. There are many, many more worth seeing.
Detail of the Seven Ages of Memory
Other famous burials include Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, Charles Francis Jenkins, the inventor of television; Abraham Baldwin, a signer of the Constitution; Charles Corby, the creator of Wonder Bread; Gilbert H. Grosvenor, chairman of the National Geographic Society; two mayors of Washington, three Union Army generals, and four Supreme Court Justices. There are also a number of family members of famous people: the father of Alexander Graham Bell, the grandfather of Douglas MacArthur, the sister of Edgar Allan Poe, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt.
My family took the metro to Fort Totten and then walked through the little park past the police station to North Capitol Street. That takes you to the back of the cemetery. One of the gates on North Capitol Street is open on Sunday mornings, when church is in session. Otherwise, you have to walk around to where Rock Creek Church Road meets Webster to find an open gate. It’s a hike and there are no facilities when the office is closed. You might be better off to rent a car.
The Fort Totten/Michigan Park neighborhood seems to be reasonably safe. People on Street Advisor warn against petty crime and robbery, but we walked all over without any trouble.
Since 1899 many tourists have visited Maplewood Cemetery, according to this vintage postcard.
The Wooldridge Monument
East Cemetery Street at North 6th Street
Mayfield, Kentucky 42066
Telephone: (270) 251-6210 Founded: 1890 Size: 17 feet wide by 33 feet long Number of interments: 1
Once his first and only love died in a riding accident in Tennessee, Henry G. Wooldridge never married. After serving in the Civil War, Colonel Wooldridge moved to the Mayfield, Kentucky area around 1880, when he was nearly 60. He bred, raced, and sold horses there – and outlived all of his immediate family.
Toward the end of his life, Colonel Wooldridge decided to leave an enduring monument to his family. He ordered a collection of 18 statues to be carved. One, a portrait statue of himself standing at a lectern, was carved of marble in Italy. Most of the others were carved of native Kentucky sandstone in Paducah, Kentucky between 1890-99. Will Lydon, a sculptor for Williamson and Company claimed in 1930 that he had carved two-thirds of the figures himself. Now they are recognized as important examples of Kentucky folk art.
When the statues were ready to ship, the Illinois Central Railroad supplied a special flatcar to transport the statues from Paducah to Mayfield. Legend has it that the Mayfield town drunk was in Paducah at the time, so he hitched a ride astride Col. Wooldridge’s horse, riding into town in style behind the statue of Wooldridge himself.
With Wooldridge looking on, the statues were installed on a plot 17 feet wide by 33 feet long in the Maplewood Cemetery in Mayfield. The collection includes two statues of Wooldridge – the one astride his favorite horse Fop and the other of him standing beside a lectern. Other figures represent his mother Keziah, four of his brothers, three of his sisters, and two nieces. His hunting dogs Bob and Towhead, follow a fox and a deer.
The colonel died on May 30, 1899. He is the only person buried in the plot. His coffin lies inside the stone sarcophagus, which had an Italian marble slab on top.
Ektachrome postcard from the 1950s
As you can see from the postcards, the fence around the plot has undergone several iterations. The original iron fence was replaced during the 1950s by chicken wire. That was replaced again by a fence similar to the original, placed by the Mayfield Masonic Lodge, of which Wooldridge had been a member.
The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The historical plaque at the grave site calls Wooldridge an animal lover, famous fox-hunter, and Mason. Ripley’s Believe It or Not featured the monument on its television show in September 1984.
On January 27, 2009, a 300-year-old oak toppled onto the statues after an ice storm. Only the three female statues at the back and one of the dogs survived unscathed. The horse and several other figures, including both statues of Wooldridge, were decapitated. Federal disaster money collected by the city of Mayfield went to repair its chief tourist attraction. You can watch a lecture about the restoration of the statues on Youtube.
The monument was rededicated in October 2012.
Please watch this beautiful (and short) video about the monument:
Exterior of the Chapel of the Princes, Church of San Lorenzo, Florence. All photos come from The Church of San Lorenzo in Florence and Its Medici Chapels, which is reviewed on 8/1/13.
The Church of San Lorenzo
Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini, 6, 50123 Florence, Italy Founded: 1442 Number of interments: 40-some? Open: Daily from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. or from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the last entry at 5:30. These hours may be seasonal, but I’m having trouble getting a straight answer from the internet tonight. The church is closed the second and fourth Sundays of the month, as well as on the first, third, and fifth Mondays of the month. It’s also closed January 1st, May 1st, and Christmas Day. Admission: There is an admission fee, but the Church’s website is down tonight and I can’t confirm it for you.
Saint Laurence was a 28-year-old deacon martyred by the Emperor Valerian on August 10, 258 CE. A church was dedicated to his memory in Florence in the fourth century. Of the original Church of San Lorenzo, nothing remains.
The tomb of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, by Michelangelo
The wealthy families of Florence decided in December 1418 to enlarge the old Romanesque church. The Medici family took responsibility for remodeling one of the chapels and the sacristy, where the priest’s vestments and other objects used in the service are kept. Cosimo de Medici started paying for the chapel in 1442. In 22 years, he spent sums that can’t even be estimated now. In that time, San Lorenzo had become the parish church of the Medici family. Cosimo himself is buried in the crypt, below the altar, to be nearest the holy relics.
The first Medici had been buried in a poor and obscure church in the Old Market, according to The Church of San Lorenzo in Florence and the Medici Chapels. Now that the Medicis were spending their fortune on the church, they wanted to be buried there as well. Cardinal Guilio de Medici and his cousin Pope Leo X decided in 1520 to move Lorenzo the Magnificent (died 1492) and his brother Guiliano, who had been assassinated in the cathedral in 1478, as well as the Dukes of Nemours (died 1515) and Urbino (died 1517) into what would become the New Sacristy.
Detail of the tomb of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino
Michelangelo Buonarroti was hired to build suitable tombs for them and turned in his initial plan in November 1520. He hoped the space would become the final resting place of Dante, who still has not been returned to Florence to this day. (See Rest in Pieces for the full story.)
Construction of the New Sacristy began in March 1521 and proceeded rapidly. Michelangelo completed several sculptures for it, including a Madonna, the two “captains” who would represent Lorenzo and Guiliano, and began the allegorical figures that would adorn the tombs. Pope Leo commanded that Michelangelo accept no other commissions on pain of excommunication until the Sacristy was finished, but Leo’s death in 1532 rescinded that order. Michelangelo was called to Rome to paint The Final Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. He did not return to Florence until after his death.
Night, detail on the tomb of Guiliano, Duke of Nemours. She is the only allegorical figure Michelangelo completed.
As Michelangelo knew he was dying, he burned all his notes and sketches for the Medici chapels, so that later artists could not discredit him by completing his work in a substandard way. For that reason, the sculptures are pretty much the way the master left them. Only one of the sculptures is entirely finished. The other three figures are in various stages of incompletion, from lacking background details to lacking a face.
When he died in July 1564, Michelangelo’s funeral was held at San Lorenzo. 80 sculptors and painters were present. Afterward, he was buried in Santa Croce.
The Chapel of the Princes, Church of San Lorenzo, Florence
After Michelangelo had left the building, the Chapel of the Princes was conceived as a third sacristy and the tomb of the “ennobled” Medici in 1568. Its foundation was finally laid in January 1605, but the chapel was far from finished in 1649 when its architect died. Anna Maria Ludovica, the last of the Medicis, left money for its completion in her will, but her wishes were set aside. The House of Lorena, who succeeded the Medici, continued the work and also received the right to burial there. In 1929, the pavement was completed at last and the altar itself erected.
The Chapel of the Princes may be the most beautiful room I’ve ever seen. It’s decorated in pietre dure, precious stones, including the rarest and costliest stones of Italy, Corsica, Bohemia, Spain, France, Flanders, and the Aegean in shades of blue, green, and amber.
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