Travel Back in Time: Mount Auburn Cemetery is Filled with History and Natural Beauty

The cemetery located in Watertown is a National Historical Landmark and is the final resting place for some of Boston's most famous residents.

A visit to the takes visitors away from the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century and into a hilly-green enclave, filled with some of the area’s most historic figures.

Founded in 1831, the cemetery ­– which lies in both Watertown and Cambridge – was named a National Historic Landmark in 2003.

Boston residents built the cemetery when burial space became scarce in the city, and to provide a final resting place for their loved ones in a natural setting.

To see more, click on the photos and video at right.

Not only does Mount Auburn provide the final resting place for poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, artist Winslow Homer, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and many more figures, it is also the first large-scale garden cemetery.

Getting around the cemetery is easy with a map, which can be purchased at the gate for 50 cents. Some areas of the grounds are accessible by car – just don’t park on the grass. Many other sections can only be reached on footpaths, and some paved walks are closed to motor vehicles.

Longfellow’s grave, for instance, is a relatively short stroll from the main gate up Indian Ridge Path. Handy signs tell you which path you are on.

Along with the graves of some of America’s finest authors, artist and political figures, the cemetery features some picturesque lakes and other features. The Mary Backer Eddy Monument stands over Halcyon Lake. A short distance away is Auburn Lake with lovely trees and in the summer is partially covered by lily pads.

If horticulture is more appealing than history, a map marking some of the largest and most prominent trees in the cemetery can be purchased for a small fee.

Trees and plant are marked with signs to let you know what species you are looking at. That can come in handy, with more than 5,000 trees in the cemetery.

You will encounter many birds, chipmunks and other wildlife while walking among the trees, bushes and flowers.

Architectural gems also dot the cemetery. The Egyptian Revival Gateway was first built in 1832 and rebuilt in 1843. Story Chapel (dating back to 1898) near the entrance, and Bigelow Chapel (built in 1840 and rebuilt in 1850s), a little farther in.

Toward the southern end of the cemetery stands Washington Tower, finished in 1854, which rises above the trees and provides a view of the Boston area.

Sculptures adorn many of the graves, and a sphinx – which is a Civil War monument – sits near the Bigelow Chapel.

Admission to Mount Auburn Cemetery is free, which is good because it will likely take more than one visit to explore the 175-acre grounds. In a few hours we covered only about a quarter of the cemetery.

The cemetery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from May to September and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October to April.


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