Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Famously Wed and the Very Dead: Touring Greenmount Cemetery






Longtime readers of this blog know I love visiting cemeteries -- especially the lovely "rural garden" or "garden park" cemeteries of the mid to late 1800s. So when I learned of historic Green Mount Cemetery, in northern Baltimore, I was excited.

Green Mount Cemetery was established a the very beginning of the rural garden cemetery movement in the United States, and it is notable for being one of the earliest of the Victorian rural garden cemeteries in the United States. Designed to be outdoor galleries of art and architecture, these were destinations in and of themselves, whether you had a loved one buried there or not. I particularly enjoyed this cemetery because of some of the very lovely bronze sculptures situated throughout the cemetery. The sculptors include William Henry Rinehart (himself interred within the grounds), Hans Schuler, and J. Maxwell Miller.

Green Mount Cemetery offers a slice of Maryland history that includes 8 Maryland governors, 16 Civil War generals, Lincoln assassination conspirators Samual Arnold and Michael O'Laughlin, as well as Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth (who lies in his family's plot in an all-but-unmarked grave), as well as other movers and shakers of the late 1800s and 1900s: Johns Hopkins, Enoch Pratt, and Allen Dulles (CIA director), among others. Circus performers, authors, sculptors, mayors and senators, business leaders and philanthropists are also interred within Green Mount.


My friend and I visited Booth's grave, mostly with the intent of leaving our Lincoln pennies on his marker, a traditional offering. His stone is unremarkable and almost invisible, next to the more showy Junias Brutas Booth's marker. The Booths, in their day, were a famous acting family. Unfortunately their most infamous member is the only one well remembered now.



As you walk the paths, as you climb to the highest point, you'll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Baltimore, especially if you visit during the late fall or winter, when tree leaves have fallen. If you go during the summer months, you'll notice the variety of trees -- Green Mount, like many other rural garden cemeteries, also served as arboretums, with a wide variety of trees.



Interestingly, bird watchers frequent the cemetery and with good reason: hawks, falcons, woodcocks, and owls all inhabit the cemetery. Unfortunately when we visited, all we noticed were sparrows and black birds.

There were many remarkable grave markers (remember, I'm a "tombstone tourist"). One of my favorite markers is that of Elijah Bond, who patented the ouija board. Not surprisingly, this is a popular grave, often visited by ouija board enthusiasts. More interesting background about this grave can be found here.



Know before you go #1: Each May and October Wayne Schaumburg leads guided tours of the Cemetery on Saturday mornings. Mr. Schaumburg has degrees in history and liberal arts from Towson University, Morgan State University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Know before you go #2: Take your own guided walking tour of the cemetery. Maps and other materials can be obtained at the Cemetery Office located on the right side of the Entrance Gate; the minimal charge for these materials help cover the cost of production. All visitors are asked to sign in at the office.

Getting there: 1501 Greenmount Avenue, Baltimore

Hours: The Cemetery office and grounds are open Monday through Friday 9 am till 4 pm. The office closes at noon on Saturdays; the grounds remain open until 4 pm. In cases of inclement weather, please call before visiting.

Dogs: I'm not sure whether they're officially allowed, although we did see several dog walkers enjoying the scenery while we were there.

Website: www.greenmountcemetery.com

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