TwHP Lessons

Mount Auburn Cemetery: A New American Landscape

[Drawing] Mount Auburn Cemetery, 1847.
(From James Smillie's Mount Auburn Illustrated in Finely Drawn Line Engravings. Courtesy Mount Auburn Cemetery)


he situation of Mount Auburn, near Boston, is one of great natural fitness for the objects to which it has been devoted.... In a few years, when the hand of taste shall have scattered among the trees, as it has already begun to do, enduring memorials of marble and granite, a landscape of the most picturesque character will be created. No place in the environs of our city will possess stronger attractions to the visitor.... [T]he human heart...seeks consolation in rearing emblems and monuments.... This can be fitly done, not in the tumultuous and harassing din of cities,...but amidst the quiet vendure of the field, under the broad and cheerful light of heaven,....

Jacob Bigelow, 1831¹

The enduring memorials of which Jacob Bigelow so lyrically spoke were the monuments of people that would be buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery. The establishment of Mount Auburn Cemetery, about four miles outside of Boston, marked a major shift in the way Americans buried their dead. As the country's first large-scale designed landscape open to the public, it inspired many offspring--other rural cemeteries, the first public parks, and the first designed suburbs in the 19th century.

¹From "A Discourse on the Burial of the Dead," a speech delivered by Jacob Bigelow to the Boston Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge in 1831.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Boston and vicinity, 1830
 2. Mount Auburn Cemetery, 1847

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Founding Vision: A "Garden of Graves"
 2. The Landscape: Art and Nature
 3. A Place for the Living:
 Leisure, Learning, and Mourning

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Engraved view of Copp's Hill, Boston, 1851
 2. Engraved view of Lowell Lot, 1847
 3. Engraved view of Stow Gardens, circa 1760
 4. Engraved view of Gossler Lot, 1847
 5. Stereographic view of Jones Lot, 1860s
 6. Engraved view of Appleton Lot, 1847
 7. Mount Auburn guide book, 1856

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Map Mania
 2. Location is Everything
 3. Observing the Landscape

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This lesson is based on Mount Auburn Cemetery, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Mount Auburn Cemetery has been designated a National Historic Landmark.



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