Swan Point Cemetery | Most Beautiful Cemeteries in New EnglandPhoto Credit : Aimee Tucker
Are you a Tombstone Tourist? Do you enjoy visiting cemeteries as a destination for art, history, nature, and serenity? If so, you’re in luck. New England is home to several historic “garden-style” or “rural” cemeteries, a landscape style made popular throughout the 19th-century by combining “final resting place” with a “place of natural beauty,” making them a popular destination for both the living and the recently living. Stroll one of these historic, garden-style cemeteries today and see why we’ve named them the most beautiful cemeteries in New England.
Founded in 1831, Mount Auburn is often cited as not just one of the most beautiful cemeteries in New England, but also in the world. It was the first of the 19th-century “rural cemetery” movement that combined cemeteries with park-style landscaping. Walking paths wind between more than 5,000 trees and more than 30,000 monuments, including top displays from early American sculptors. Famous “residents” include artist Winslow Homer, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and cookbook author Fannie Farmer, though in total over 90,000 people are buried at Mt. Auburn. Guided tours of the cemetery’s historic, artistic, and horticultural points of interest are available, and well worth it.
If you like Mount Auburn Cemetery you may also wish to visit historic Forest Hills Cemetery in nearby Jamaica Plain, founded in the same garden style in 1848.
Founded in 1834, Mount Hope Cemetery in the up-and-coming town of Bangor was likely modeled after Mount Auburn Cemetery’s “garden” style. Its prestige and beauty made it a natural attractive resting place for Maine’s political elite — includes the gravesites of a Vice President, two Senators, eleven Congressmen, two U.S. Ambassadors, five Governors of Maine, eight Civil War Generals, and numerous other prominent Maine businessmen and residents. Whew!
Founded in 1846, Swan Point Cemetery’s original 60 acres (now 200) of meticulously maintained grounds, trees, and walking paths have long been a serene sanctuary for many Ocean State residents. Dozens of Rhode Island political and military figures are buried today at Swan Point, including Civil War General Ambrose Burnside and Major Sullivan Ballou, a Smithfield native who died following the First Battle of Bull Run in the summer of 1861. The heartfelt letter he penned to his wife, Sarah, in the days leading up to the battle, expressing an honest meditation on patriotism and death, was memorably featured in Ken Burns’s award-winning 1990 documentary The Civil War.
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Founded in 1866, Cedar Hill was designed to serve as a “rural cemetery” in the style of Mount Auburn Cemetery, with mature trees, walking paths, and gravestones doubling as art. It spreads over three tows (Hartford, Wethersfield, and Newington) spanning 273 acres, including the Northam Memorial Chapel and Gallup Memorial Gateway. Group or self-guided tours available.
When the “granite capital of the world” town of Barre, Vermont founded Hope Cemetery in 1895, it was understood that its stones would be something special. Serving as both cemetery and unofficial art gallery, its original 53 (today 65) acres display masterful carvings by many of the world’s top granite sculptors. In fact, a large number of the tombstones mark the graves of the sculptors themselves, and were sometimes even carved by the very artist that now lies beneath it.
Are these the most beautiful cemeteries in New England? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.