Friday, November 28, 2008

Weekend whimsy: A special resting place for Georgia Bulldogs

"Bulldog Haven" is a burial pot especially for Georgia 'Dawgs. And not just any 'Dawgs, but only for letter-winners in athletics.

Dogs and cemeteries: Do they mix?

Cemetery operators and government officials in Massachusetts are trying to enforce laws that keep dogs out of cemeteries.
This is an interesting dilemma, because some cemeteries, most notably the historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, "rents" its grounds to dog lovers in order to help ends meet.

Virginia Commonwealth University in slave cemetery controversy

VCU owns land near an old slave cemetery it wanted for a parking lot, but some people want the entire site preserved. VCU says it might oblige, but wants the $3 million it paid for the land.

Connecticut cemetery undergoing restoration

Thanks to the help of dedicated volunteers -- and some money from the late Paul Newman's foundation, efforts to restore the historic Center Street Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut, are well under way. Says Valerie Buckley, Easton Senior Citizen Center director:

"We've restored about 40 grave sites -- cleaned up or repaired the stones. It is a pleasing project that is really going well."

Brooklyn cemetery seeks $$ from city for flood damage

The Catholic Cemeteries of Brooklyn has filed a complaint against the city saying that stormwater runoff has caused millions of dollars in damage over the years. The organization says that St. John Cemetery, in Middle Village, is flooded because of poor drainage along Metropolitan Avenue. It is seeking $10 million, plus $25 million in punitive damages. Reports the Queens Chronicle:

The flooding has damaged the cemetery gate, a number of trees and maybe
even graves, said Father Kieran Harrington, spokesman for the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens.

Wanted: $300K to restore Oswego, NY, cemetery

The 150-year-old Evergreen Cemetery will get $326,000 from the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and now needs to raise $300,000 of its own to fix up the decaying place.

Students in Texas map old African-American cemetery

Students from several disciplines at Stephen F. Austin University are undertaking a mapping project at a 19th-century African-American cemetery that fell into disrepair after World War II. They are from SFA's geography, sociology and anthropology clubs.

Who was Eleanor Rigby?

To take a slightly different turn here, there is news that the woman featured in the classic Beatles tune was a real person, and not a figure from Paul McCartney's imagination. A payroll sheet from a Liverpool hospital that McCartney donated to charity was to be auctioned at Sotheby's auction today (November 27). According to this report, the sheet was signed by a hospital maid, "E Rigby," and is said to be the same person buried in 1939 in the graveyard next to the church where McCartney and John Lennon met.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Touring New York cemeteries

The NY Times Travel section has an article on touring the city's cemeteries, and the Web site includes a photo tour. As time permit's I'll get some of those links up here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Artist David Cox ... Darley Churchyard painting

The New York Times featured a story about 19th-century painter David Cox and an exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art, which is brought to your attention here largely because of his "Darley Churchyard" painting (circa 1858).

Louisiana cemetery fix-up still needed after hurricane damage

A local resident stumbled across a cemetery damaged during Hurricane Gustav last summer, and Louisiana TV statiom WAFB has reported on the need to clean up the damage. An earlier report includes a link of the news video.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wreath-laying opportunity

Here is a second opportunity to lay wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers. The Sgt. Mac Foundation was started by the family of Marine Sgt. Eric McColley, who was killed in a February 2006 helicopter accident.
Our first post on this subject brought attention to Wreaths Across America.

Library in Washington State offers tour podcast

The library in Everett, Washington, offers a podcast for taking a virtual, or real, tour of Evergreen Cemetery. Just click on that first link and scroll down for the podcast. There also is a .pdf of a map.

Colorado town grapples with Old West cemetery

The Denver Post has an interesting feature story about the old cemetery in the rocky slopes outside Silverton, Colo. There's no mortician or funeral home in the town; in fact, there are no official burial plots. Silverton Town Administrator Elyse Salazar says it's "somewhat of a free-for-all."

Illinois cemetery has funding woes

The Galva City Council has increased its local tax rate, and says the town cemetery's expenses are outpacing income.
Besides the funding woes - $36,033 lost the last four years - the city also has concerns about how it can buy more ground to expand the 25-year-old cemetery when necessary, and even whether the city can cut upkeep expenses by spraying chemicals on the lawns.
This latter idea is one bad idea,because such spraying could have a harmful impact on wildlife and plant life in the area - not to mention the possible harm to the citizenry. There must be a better way to care for Galva Cemetery. Officials will discuss the cemetery further on Dec. 15.
Ideas out there? Can anyone help?

Atlanta cemetery gets help in recovery

Last March, the noted Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta was heavily damaged by storms and a tornado. Now, more help in the recovery is coming, with the donation of a tree from the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Among the notables buried at Oakland are "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell and golfing legend Bobby Jones.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Connecticut town considers cemetery committee

The town of Berlin, Connecticut, has scheduled a public hearing to set up a local committee to oversee the cemeteries in town.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Massachusetts cemetery in zoning battle of a different kind

In this case, the world-famous Mount Auburn Cemetery is fighting plans for a concrete plant, saying that it would disrupt "the serene and peaceful atmosphere that is critical to the cemetery’s operations." Mount Auburn claims the plant is a non-conforming use, while plant owners say it is the re-operation of a previously allowed use.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekend whimsy: On a lighter note, world's best cemeteries

I want to attempt to offer more positive news in weekend posts, so here's a start:
Lonely Planet's top travel destinations for 2009 include its picks for the world's top 10 "places of rest."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Solar energy from a cemetery

The Santa Coloma de Gramenet cemetery, outside of Barcelona, Spain, has had 462 solar panels installed in the grave niches. According to the Associated Press, the energy produced equals the annual consumption of 60 homes. That energy flows into the local grid and is one way the town is a pioneer in fighting global warming.

Hurricane Ike impact still being felt in Gulf Coast cemeteries

This story is a little old, but it bears mentioning anyway: Dozens of caskets unearthed during Hurricane Ike have not been reburied. This site includes video.
And here is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle detailing some of the problems in Louisiana.

Iowa cemetery gets restoration funds from university

An old cemetery in Oskaloosa has received funds from a university to help with the upkeep and restoration.

Wreaths Across America: Remembering America's war heroes

With Veterans Day past us, many will fail to remember the sacrifices of our nation's military heroes until the pre-Memorial Day cemetery cleanups begin next spring. One organization is trying to change that. Wreaths Across America calls for the placing of holiday wreaths at the graves of America's fallen. An article in the New Milford Times, in Connecticut, provides some insight into this holiday memorial. In part, it says:

In December 2007, 286 participating locations hosted Wreaths Across America
ceremonies overseeing the placement of 32,553 wreaths on the headstones of those
who served and sacrificed for our freedoms.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cemeteries and zoning in Bibb County, Georgia

One of the things we've discovered in our early research into cemeteries and land use is that there seem to be almost as many zoning regulations as there are government jurisdictions. Even in southern New Jersey, where I live, they run the gamut from none to historic to specifics on the amount of paved surface.
But in one county, Bibb County in Georgia, they must not think they need cemeteries at all -- because county commissioners there have pretty much put the kabosh on any new cemeteries there, and seem to have particularly targeted a green cemetery. Among the regulations are significant setbacks from water sources and the requirement that bodies be buried in a “leak-proof casket or vault.”
While perhaps well-meaning, the commissioners are woefully shortsighted. How do they think their Founding Fathers were buried? What do they think of current Jewish and Muslim practices? If they are worried about contamination of water, what do they think of the risks of formaldehyde? Or arsenic, which was part of the embalming practice from the Civil War days through the early 20th century?
The vote already is drawing criticism, including an editorial in the Macon Telegraph, which notes the commissioners' ignorance of burial practices and shortsightedness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Flooding at Connecticut cemetery; rising water table to blame?

Standing pools of water have caused graves in a Middletown, Connecticut, cemetery to deteriorate, tombstones to tumble.

South Carolina county taking over run-down cemetery

A long-neglected cemetery in Greenville County may be taken via eminent domain if officials cannot reach agreement with the owner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wisconsin cemetery needs help

A down-on-its-luck cemetery in Wisconsin that dates back to the first months of the previous century seeks money and volunteer help for repairs and replacement of its garage.
Says cemetery trustee Bob Morden of the dedicated volunteers:
"We all have a good level of pride in our cemetery."

Renewal at New Orleans Cemeteries

We all remember photos of coffins lying along roadsides after the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina in along the Gulf Coast. Now, thanks to the efforts of community organizers and activists, cemeteries in New Orleans are being returned to their former beauty.
Here is the If You Go information from the article:
HISTORIC NEW ORLEANS TOURS: or 504-947-2120.Two-hour Cemetery Voodoo Tour, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.;Sundays at 1 p.m., $15 cash and traveler’s checks only ($13 forstudents, $7 for children 6-12), starting at 334-B Royal St. in thecourtyard of Royal Cafe Beignet.
SAVE OUR CEMETERIES TOURS: or504-525-3377. One-hour tours of Lafayette Cemetery in the GardenDistrict, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (meetat the Washington Avenue gate on the 1400 block of WashingtonAvenue), $6 suggested donation; and one-hour tours of St. LouisCemetery, Sundays at 10 a.m. (meet in the first floor of the BasinStreet Station Visitors Center, 501 Basin St.), $12 suggesteddonation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cemetery as wilderness preserve

Walk up to the entrance of a former farm in Ohio and you see a sign for Foxfield Preserve. What you don't know at first blush is that it is a natural cemetery. It is being operated by The Wilderness Center, and is a prime example of how nature preservation and cemeteries can be blended into a single function.

(Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Colorado cemetery's mapping project

An old cemetery in Colorado was mapped using GPS technology.

Old cemeteries found in Delaware

The Field of Stones project is designed to hunt for long-lost cemeteries in Delaware, including this one in Sussex County. As this article notes, many of these cemeteries -- many of which are private, family cemeteries of old -- are threatened by development.

Photo credit: Chuck Snyder/The News Journal

Phila. suburban veterans cemetery

Here is one of the stories available this morning on the dedication of the veterans cemetery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Green burial: story in Philadelphia Inquirer

The Inquirer has an excellent article this morning on the green, or natural, burial phenomenon.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Sopranos" cemetery is restored

A northern New Jersey cemetery featured in episodes of "The Sopranos" is returning to its former glory, after a cleanup effort that began in the summer.

Veterans cemeteries, state by state

AARP's monthly newsletter/bulletin included this map, detailing the number of veterans cemeteries in each state.
You will soon be able to add 1 to Pennsylvania's total, with the dedication of a new cemetery outside of Philadelphia. The issue of creating this cemetery has gone on for years; here is a link to a story from June 2007; the issue involved a local school board, a developer and a land swap.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Economic meltdown threatens cemeteries

Even before the calamity of Wall Street in late summer and early autumn, the troubled economy affected U.S. cemeteries.
As the price of precious metals rose, so did the rise of thefts of ornamental markers at cemeteries.
"There's definitely an uptick; you might call it a rash," Bob Fells, general counsel for the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, told USA Today in August. "This seems to happen any time the price of metal goes up."
Among the crimes detailed in that USA Today article:
•1,000-pound bronze gates stolen from two mausoleums at a cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware.
•More than 200 brass urns stolen from two cemeteries in Cumberland, Maryland.
•$500,000 worth of brass urns and ornaments stolen from Chicago cemeteries.
The scrap-metal industry has issued guidelines for its members to follow regarding acceptance of suspicious materials, but those guidelines are only as good as the moral compasses that guide scrap-metal dealers.
Meanwhile, looting is only part of the economic trouble facing cemeteries.
Hardly a day passes when there is not some news about cemeteries falling into disrepair and needing financial help to right themselves. Many churches operate on shoestring budgets in the best of times, and when times go bad, they are the first place people turn to for food and comfort. Those church cemeteries often can be left in the lurch. Other, privately run cemeteries run into similar cash-flow problems, particularly in a culture that thinks more about defying age than planning for the afterlife (whatever your religious or non-religious bent).
And then, there are the senseless vandals who have nothing better to do than to deface and destroy? You can bet that cemetery vandalism is low on the list of priorities for ever-squeezed law enforcement.
So, how can we fix this? As we approach the 145th anniversary of the dedication of the national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, it is time for us to rededicate ourselves to treasuring our sacred ground.
Get involved in your local historical and/or genealogical society. Form a task force in your community. Plan nature outings in cemeteries. Include cemeteries in "greenways" projects. At the risk of making a terrible pun: Make cemeteries a vital part of your community's life.
Founding Father Ben Franklin once noted: "Show me your cemeteries, and I will tell you what kind of people you have."

The American Resting Place: book review

The Washington Post had a book review in June on this book. The Post link includes an audio interview of the author.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arlington National Cemetery's tight squeeze

Here are some articles about the tight conditions around Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The first is from National Geographic in June 2007, and the other is from Arlington Connection, from August 2008, which indicates the problems are not getting any better.

Built-out town can't squeeze in a cemetery

The Detroit Free Press reports that plans to establish a cemetery have been halted, because there is no room in this town.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Philadelphia cemetery goes 'green'

A cemetery in Philadelphia is part of the burgeoning "natural" cemetery movement. Here is a story and video link from a local TV station.

Old cemetery site in the middle of Denver

Workers at a parking garage construction project near the State Capitol in Denver have discovered remains from one of the city's first cemeteries.

Welcome to "Whistling Past the Graveyard"

Where do we go when we die, I once asked a room full of planning experts.
Their response was as quiet as a cemetery. I think they thought I was a bit of a loon, who had slipped into their midst.
In reality, I simply was a budding GIS student, coming off my first class in the subject: Land Use, at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. For my research project, I discovered that while cemeteries might be one of the most common land uses in a community, they are definitely under the radar when it comes to planning, smart growth, development and other related fields.
I didn't leave them squirming in their seats for long -- I basically told them what I just told you: that cemeteries are not much talked about in planning circles.
Cemeteries, in fact, are very much a part of the community fabric in many ways:
> They often take up prime real estate, and many are tax-exempt, which makes it tougher on ratable-starved towns.
> Without proper care, they can fall into disrepair and become havens of neglect and criminal activity, which costs countless hours for caretakers, community organizers and law enforcement.
> In some urban areas, they can be the only green spaces on the landscape.
> Older cemeteries can be potentially hazardous to your health -- arsenic was once the embalming substance of choice, and there are stories that some archeologists wear hazmat suits for their work.
> Some of the newest are returning to the oldest ways, via the natural burial movement.
> Cemeteries, particularly the expansive, landscaped ones, can be havens for myriad forms of wildlife.
> In many communities, cemeteries hold an important place in the historic, tourism and cultural landscapes.
In short, they are essential. We, um, can't live without them.
In the last 18 months or so, I've read and gathered a number of articles and links about cemeteries. As this blog gets up and running, I will add some of the best to this site, as well as offer new reports.
My goal is to offer both original content and the best of cemetery reporting from around the world. If I'm capable, I'd like to expand this to offer calendar items and other news of interest to my fellow taphophiles.
So enjoy.
Photo credit: New York Times