Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lawn Cemeteries

The third type of gravescape in the U.S. is the lawn cemetery.  (The first two being graveyards and rural cemeteries, which we discussed last week.) The lawn cemetery, or modern cemetery as it is also known, gained favor around the end of the Civil War.


Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana
As the name suggests, a lawn cemetery is covered with grass, with small tombstones and markers used to designate burial plots instead of large monuments and statues.  This is thought to present a more solemn and aesthetic visual appeal of the grounds to visitors, and to create a cemetery that is much easier for the groundskeepers to maintain. 

Adolph Strauch has been called the  ‘father of the lawn cemetery’ because of his work on Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Strauch was a well-known landscape artist of the nineteenth century who designed many parks in Cincinnati and Chicago.  He assisted in recreating Spring Grove Cemetery and Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery into modern lawn cemeteries by reducing the spate of monuments and statues found there, and by including lakes and trees on the grounds.

Stone railing separating family plot from cemetery
But this pleasing appearance of expansive landscapes does come with some drawbacks.  The disadvantages of the lawn cemetery includes the fact that cemetery authorities may restrict or forbid plot owners from altering the gravesite with plants, flowers or railings.  They may limit the size and/or shape of the stone.   And they may also refuse to allow any flowers or decorations to be used at a grave, thereby creating that uniform appearance most lawn cemeteries have.

Advantages of the lawn cemetery includes the creation of pleasant, approachable landscapes, the absence of pretentious monuments used to express a family’s social station in life, and the economy of allowing cemetery authorities to use and maintain the land in the most efficient manner, therefore reducing the cost of the plots themselves.  With these approaches, lawn cemeteries found a way to set themselves apart from the elements associated with graveyards and rural cemeteries.

Monument at Oak Ridge in Springfield, IL
They are the status quo of gravescapes used in the U.S. today. But while there is much to recommend them, lawn cemeteries still lack a certain sentimental appeal that attracts those of us searching for those qualities of nostalgia, melancholy and romantic sensibility in our cemeteries.

 ~ Joy