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A quick history of Mount Auburn Cemetery

This well-known cemetery in Cambridge was founded in the 1830s.

BOSToday Mount Auburn Cemetery 2

Mount Auburn Cemetery used its natural landscaping to compliment its original design. Many years later, the lush foliage compliments buildings inside, like
Bigelow Chapel.

Photo courtesy of Mount Auburn Cemetery

Known for its lush landscaping and plant life, the tranquil Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of the most recognizable burial grounds in Cambridge. Recently, five new, pedestrian-only gates were added on the Cambridge side to increase overall foot traffic. This is just one of countless updates made throughout this historic cemetery’s long and celebrated lifespan.

The cemetery was founded in 1831 by members of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society with the intent of providing a peaceful place “where families could commemorate their loved ones with tasteful works of art in an inviting and natural setting.” In addition, they desired to tackle the issue of urban land use due to an increase in burials in the city.

In the 1830s, planning a graveyard didn’t usually involve incorporating an area’s natural beauty. But, according to Mount Auburn Cemetery, the abundance of trees and other lush flora were used to its advantage. Paths and lanes were named for various plants, and the landscape looked more like a museum or park. When the world provides you with such beautiful details, why not embrace them?

The cemetery expanded over the years from its initial 72 acres to its current 175, bordering both Cambridge and Watertown. More than 5,000 trees thrive in the cemetery, along with local flowers like ladies’ tresses, daffodils, and lilacs.

The artistically crafted monuments throughout the cemetery add to its graceful ambiance. In addition, many notable people are buried here, including:

  • Art collector and philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner
  • Author Bernard Malamud
  • Boston-bred Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Mount Auburn Cemetery was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was designated as a National Historic Monument in 2003.
Though certainly a place to honor loved ones, Mount Auburn Cemetery’s natural beauty is worth a visit.

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