On Wednesday 24 May 2006 at 5:30 P.M. Charles Sullivan, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, will present a lecture on Cambridge Maps and Mapmakers at Mount Auburn Cemetery. More details can be found here.
Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge is the final resting place of many prominent Bostonians including Charles Bulfinch, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Phillips Brooks among others. It is historically significant as one of the first large scale landscape projects in the country when it was created in 1831. The splendid Egyptian Revival gateway influenced other burying grounds: the Granary Burying Ground in downtown Boston has a smaller Egyptian styled gate, as does the Dorchester North Burying Ground in Uphams Corner. One can also see the Mount Auburn influence in the layout of Dorchester North, which was redesigned in the mid 19th century to reflect the more picturesque garden style pioneered at Mount Auburn.
You can read a description of Mount Auburn written by Hammatt Billings (a noted architect and artist in his right) from the Boston Almanac for 1857:
A visit to Mount Auburnis one of the indispensables to a stranger sojourning in or near Boston and few places present, within an equal space,either to citizens or strangers, a more varied combination of element, to attract attention and awaken thought. It was the first rural cemetery of any magnitude in the country. The spot was selected by one thoroughly alive to the beauty of nature, and neither care nor expense been spared in the efforts to enhance its great natural advantage. Unfortunately, art does not anyway assist or improve nature, and it must be admitted that unlicensed freedom of choice is not by any means the constant ally of good taste. Mt. Auburn is not the sole illustration of the fact that something beside good intention is necessary to do honor to the dead imperishable forms; but there is here, perhaps; a greater variety of inconsistencies, a more unlimited display of fancy, caprice, or whatever it may more properly be termed than in most other great cemeteries. The works of educated artists, whatever may be their faults, are seldom open to the charge of eccentricity; - a unity of thought pervades the design, and harmonizes the parts to the whole. So where there are combined a great number of good works, even in the most varied styles, a general tone of harmony in the whole arises from the nicely adjusted harmonies of each work considered by itself.
At Mt. Auburn this is entirely lost. The visitor passes from one to another, struck with equal astonishment at the bizarre fancies which meet his eye at every turn, and the dazzling contrast of relief afforded to the mind by an object in itself beautiful and finely conceived in its spirit and form. It is a consolation to reflect that the result even now is probably better than it would have been, had the influences which prevailed in the erection of the Gateway, the Chapel, and the Tower controlled the designs f the memorials to the departed. Mt. Auburn originally comprised an area of 72acres. Two additional purchases have enlarged it to 126 ½ acres. It was consecrated in the year 1825. The address on that occasion was delivered by the late Hon. Judge Story, then President of the Society, and prayers were offered by the late Rev. Dr. Henry Ware and Rev. JohnPierpont, with an impressive hymn by the latter. The first interment was the body of the venerable Hannah Adams, deceased December 15, 1831,aged 76 years. Among the earliest, was the lamented Dr. Spurzheim, It would be impossible in the present space, to give even a list of the immense number of monuments with which Mt. Auburn is filled. A brief sketch of the cuts must suffice.
The Gateway is on the road from Old Cambridge to Watertown at the distance of about 4 miles from Boston. Cars from the station in Bowdoin Square every fifteen minutes during the day, and till 11 ½ o'clock in the evening. This structure is of Quincy granite. It is intended to represent an Egyptian Pylon, or entrance to a temple. The symbols utterly unmeaning to our unsymbolic minds, are supposed to convey some suggestion of immortality. The stone is most carefully selected, and the workmanship, as usual in the granite work of this vicinity, is admirably good.