Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn A Modern Vision for an Historic Cemetery - Page 4

A Modern Vision for an Historic Cemetery By Bree D. Harvey, Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services It has been nearly two centuries since Mount Auburn was opened to the public as a place to bury the dead, console the bereaved, and inspire the living. Remarkably, the vision that guided the Cemetery’s founding and consequently shaped the way an entire country thought about life and death continues to guide many of Mount Auburn’s present-day goals and initiatives and the fulfillment of its contemporary mission. If there were one central theme to the history of Mount Auburn, it would be change. Within our 175 acres, we can see how changing ideas about life, death, and commemoration have gradually reshaped the use and design of the Cemetery’s monuments and landscape. Today, ideas about life and death are changing radically and rapidly. Cremation continues to rise in popularity in America (the national annual rate of cremation reached 50% in 2015 and is expected to top more than 70% by 2030). Public interest in natural or “green” burial continues to grow. Families increasingly express interest in remem- bering the lives of lost loved ones with meaningful and personalized “celebrations of life” that seem far removed from the somber funeral services of the past. And, with networks of family and friends now stretching across the globe, mourners are looking to technology to remember the dead virtually when physical visits to the Cemetery are not feasible. Mount Auburn is evolving its practices and its business to meet the needs of its contemporary clients while remaining true to the spirit that has guided the Cemetery since its start. …burying the dead… People often ask, “How much longer will Mount Auburn be able to sell burial space?” While we can’t offer a definitive answer, we are confident that for at least several decades to come the Cemetery will continue developing new burial space that will provide a diversity of burial options to accommodate our clients’ needs. Rather than committing itself to a large-scale development of its last few undeveloped acres, Mount Auburn’s current practice sees the Cemetery fitting new “pocket” gardens for burial 2 | Sweet Auburn and commemoration into our historic landscape. While these projects require great sensitivity to be successfully integrated into their surroundings, they also provide exciting opportunities to revitalize and enhance some of the most celebrated places within of our historic and iconic landscape. This summer, Mount Auburn begins a project to renovate Hazel Path, a long-overlooked walkway con- necting Consecration Dell and Washington Tower, into a picturesque woodland path that includes burial space for approximately 400 individuals. Designed specifically for the burial of cremated remains, the path will provide perma- nent memorialization on naturalistic boulders, granite steps, or limestone obelisks. Driving our decision to embark on this project is our recognition that increasing numbers of cemetery clients are seeking burial space for cremated remains; they favor locations that offer impressive views of Mount Auburn’s iconic landscape; they are drawn to locations that are unique in feel and intimate in scale; and they remain interested in options that allow for permanent memorialization, though many are open to sharing a permanent memorial with other non-related individuals buried nearby. Beyond its transformation into a beautiful and unique new area for burial and commemoration, the renovated Hazel Path will significantly improve an area within the heart of our historic core and provide additional habitat for urban wildlife. Learn more about this project, slated for completion in 2019, on pages 4–5. …consoling the bereaved… In the last decade, Mount Auburn has seen tremendous growth in demand for its chapels as places to hold personalized and meaningful celebrations of life. Looking ahead, we anticipate growing interest in the use of our chapels for a variety of private events. As America becomes increasingly secular, families are seeking beautiful but nonsectarian spaces to hold services that give meaning to the lives of those being remembered while consoling the living in ways they feel are most appropriate.