November 11, 2009

New England's First Crematorium

The Massachusetts Cremation Society opened a crematorium on Walk Hill Street in 1893, which was financed by local cremation societies. This was a radical, and highly controversial topic in late Victorian Boston and was widely covered in both the local and national press. The building was designed by local architect Ludvig Sandoe Ipsen (1840-1920) and built of Roxbury felsite in the classical style; a later addition, designed by Thomas Fox and Edward Gale, was built in 1905 with a basement columbaria. The first cremation in New England took place here in 1893, and was that of Lucy Stone (1818-1893) a well known Bostonian who had been the first Massachusetts woman to be graduated from college (Oberlin in 1838,) the first woman in the United States to retain her maiden name after her marriage (to Henrey Browne Blackwell in 1855) and the first woman editor of a newspaper ("The Woman's Journal" in Boston.) In 1925, Forest Hills Cemetery acquired the crematory, and since that time has almost tripled its size. Dr. James Read Chadwick (1844-1905) was the first president of the Massachusetts Cremation Society. A graduate of Harvard College and of the Harvard Medical School, he served as president of the American Gynecological Society, the Dorchester Medical Society and as an officer and librarian of the Boston Medical Library. Two decades after the death of Dr. Read, the crematory was sold to Forest Hills Cemetery, which has operated it since that time.


Herb said...

Ludvig Sandoe Ipsen was a well recognized delineator of book illustrations, covers, chapter headings, etc for Boston publisher James Osgood. He was trained as an architect in Denmark, but this is the first claim I have seen that he actually practiced architecture in America. I would ask Mr. SAMMARCO to provide documentation that he designed the crematorium.

Herb Zeller

Anthony M. Sammarco said...

We have more information on Ipsen if you are interestd. He was an archiect, bookplate designer, artist,illustrator and all around talented artist. He designed a fountain~horse trough in Milton, bookplates for the Milton Library and Historic New England has portraits he painted.
Let us know if you should like to visit Forest Hills Cemetery.