December 11, 2009

Let Us Emulate the Enlightened

As Henry A.S. Dearborn said in 1847 “Let us then emulate the enlightened and pious, the good and great, the affectionate and generous, the kind and the magnanimous of all other nations and ages, that were most distinguished for their advancement in civilization, and enable our fellow citizens to pay all possible respect and honor to the remains of those whom they loved and revered when living.” Thus, the rural cemetery was not just a link to nature, landscape design and horticulture, but also a link to architecture that embraced and enhanced the rural ideal, while serving a very necessary function. The buildings, gateways, fences and assorted structures erected at Forest Hills Cemetery were built for intended purposes, but their design and materials were reflective of Dearborn’s vision of integrating the ideal of romantic landscape design with symbolically appropriate architecture. The first thing seen by those arriving via Forest Hills Avenue was the gateway, originally a wood Egyptian Revival gateway that was replaced by a grander one of Roxbury puddingstone in 1865. This was an aesthetic experience and in some ways must have reassured mourners that this was a sacred place that was to embrace and offer a consoling garden sanctuary. Embracing the wooded landscape and the rough outcropping of Roxbury puddingstone rather than eliminating them, the cemetery evolved as a distinctive and unique interpretation of a rural cemetery.

Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design
Stephen Gardiner

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