Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Connecting the Present with the Past - Page 5

sweet auburn | 2019 volume i “…where the hand of the designer and horticulturalist would adorn the solemn paths and avenues displaying monuments to the dead.” a place to cherish the memory of those interred here. However, the Cemetery landscape is defined by its change, and to avoid becoming a relic of the historical past we must continually engage with the present through innovative and contemporary monument, building, and landscape design. Our responsibility as stewards of this historic landscape requires that we maintain a balance of thoughtful adaptation to shifting burial customs while simultaneously respecting our richly layered past. By remaining active and relevant as a place for burial and commemoration, we complete the connection between the present and the past. The recent renovation of Bigelow, which features a striking glass-enclosed addition by William Rawn Associates, exemplifies our commitment to preserving our built environment while embracing appropriate contemporary design. The modern addition, though prominent, was carefully designed with a low roof profile in deference to the verticality of the gothic-inspired chapel. The transparent floor-to-ceiling glass allows one to see the chapel through the new addition and, just as importantly, permits visitors inside the building to experience the beautifully textured landscape outside, giving an impressive perspective on the recently renovated Asa Gray Garden. In all, the project has revitalized a building essential to the story of Mount Auburn that was nonetheless suffering from a lack of accessibility and modern amenities, resulting in renewed excitement for the power of contemporary design to ensure that our historic buildings remain relevant and active into the future. As one wanders deeper into the Cemetery, it is the interplay of monuments with the natural landscape that gives the Cemetery its unique character and contributes to its beauty. Over the last several years, we have redoubled our efforts to protect and preserve the monuments, tombs, and mausolea that tell stories of the individuals laid to rest here. Thanks to generous support from donors, as well as federal and state grants, we have been able to work with conservators to assess and conserve many of our most significant monuments. Our own Preservation team does most of the heavy lifting, though, bearing responsibility for the care of fragile Vice President of Preservation & Facilities Gus Fraser (in red jacket) discusses the William F. Harnden (1812–1845) monument, Lot 886 on Central Avenue at Mount Auburn Cemetery, with a group of fellow admirers. nineteenth-century monuments, cast iron fences, signs, tombs, and mausolea. Preservation of our monuments benefits from thoughtful changes and enhancements to the landscape in which they sit. Planting flowering groundcovers rather than grass around monuments or within cast iron fence lots, for example, minimizes maintenance traffic and requires less equipment in and around burial lots. Removal of dense shrub plantings opens up views of significant monuments while also improving air circulation, which can aid in drying and reduce damaging biological growth over the long term. Often, however, it is simply the increased attention brought by a new planting plan that will spur interest in, and sometimes funding for, preservation treatments for surrounding monuments. The evolution of Mount Auburn’s landscape can be read in the arrangement and style of monuments, in its plantings, and in the shaping of the topography. This evolution speaks to us about the vision of the founders as well as each succeeding generation that has shaped the Cemetery in support of that original vision. History is recorded in the changing art and nature of Mount Auburn, and as stewards we are charged with preserving that history while pursuing innovative changes that document the tastes and customs of our own time. 3