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Prepared for: City of Marlborough Community Development Department City Hall, 140 Main Street Marlborough, Massachusetts 01752 Prepared by: Shary Page Berg FASLA Landscape Preservation, Planning and Design 11 Perry Street Cambridge, MA 02139 August 2002
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 RECOMMENDATIONS BY CEMETERY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Spring Hill Cemetery (1675) Old Common Cemetery (1706) Wilson Cemetery (1764) Brigham Cemetery (1793) Rocklawn Cemetery (1813) Robin Hill Cemetery (1817) Weeks Cemetery (1837) Maplewood Cemetery (1830s)
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Approach Burial Markers Structures Circulation System Topography Vegetation Site Amenites Other Issues
IMPLEMENTATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Summary of Recommendations Funding and Priority Setting Bibliography and Resource Materials
Marlborough has nine municipal cemeteries established between 1675 and 1956. Eight of these are considered historic cemeteries and are either listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are in the process of being listed. These include: Brigham Cemetery, Maplewood Cemetery, Old Common Cemetery, Robin Hill Cemetery, Rocklawn Cemetery, Spring Hill Cemetery, Weeks Cemetery and Wilson Cemetery. Evergreen Cemetery (established in 1956) is not considered a historic cemetery and is outside the scope of this report, as are Marlborough’s two Catholic cemeteries, St. Mary’s and Immaculate Conception. Marlborough, located approximately 28 miles west of Boston and 16 miles east of Worcester, was incorporated as a town in 1660. The small frontier community developed slowly at first because of conflicts associated with King Philip’s War. After 1676 Marlborough grew steadily, reaching a population of 1,287 by 1765. Through the 18th century it remained primarily an agricultural community, with its upland topography particularly well-suited to raising cattle, grain and apples. Agriculture continued to be the major occupation in rural areas of town through the 19th century. However after 1830 Marlborough developed a thriving shoe industry, which transformed it into one of the manufacturing capitals of New England. The rapidly growing industry brought need for additional labor, which resulted in an influx of immigrants, initially Irish, followed by French Canadians, and later by Italians, Greeks and Eastern European Jews. The town’s population grew from 2,500 in 1836 to 13,609 in 1900. By 1890 the increasingly complex infrastructure necessitated the reorganization of the government and Marlborough became a city. In the 20th century, Marlborough has continued to grow, reaching a population of 31,800 by 1990, and has become a diversified residential, high-technology, and business city. Initially Marlborough’s funerary needs were served by two burial grounds located near the center of the community, Spring Hill Cemetery (1675) at the eastern edge of town and Old Common Cemetery (1706) at the western edge. As the population grew more dispersed, residents of outlying areas established informal family and neighborhood burial grounds. These included Wilson Cemetery (1764); Brigham Cemetery (1793); Chipman Cemetery (1813); Robin Hill Cemetery (1817); Weeks Cemetery (1837); and Maplewood Cemetery (1830s). After 1855 all of the neighborhood cemeteries were transferred to municipal ownership and new burial areas were established at Chipman (now known as Rocklawn Cemetery) and at Maplewood, which served as Marlborough’s primary cemetery during the late 19 th and early 20th century. The two older municipal cemeteries (Spring Hill and Old Common) continue to reflect their Colonial origins, with predominantly slate headstones laid out in irregular rows and a few later monuments. Although they are referred to as cemeteries today, both could best be characterized as burying grounds, with no formal design and few embellishments. The four smaller neighborhood cemeteries (Brigham, Robin Hill, Weeks and Wilson) reflect the transition from unadorned burial grounds to cemeteries, with spatial organization based on family lots rather than individual graves; stones that display more sentimental imagery and iconography; and improvements such as roads and plantings. Rocklawn Cemetery is a fuller expression of the 19th century rural cemetery style, with all burials in family lots and a well-defined system of roads and paths. Maplewood Cemetery was established in the 1830s as a small neighborhood cemetery, but was greatly expanded in the 1860s. It contains design features derived from the rural cemetery movement, but also reflects the more pragmatic approach to cemetery design that developed later in the 19th century, with straight roads, smaller lots, and more machine made monuments, increasingly of granite rather than marble.
Introduction Marlborough has a long tradition of interest in its historic cemeteries. Historian Charles Hudson, writing in 1862, summarized the status of the town’s cemeteries at that time and their importance to the community. Cemeteries are becoming objects of attention in most of our towns; and their condition is being regarded as a sort of test of civilizations, in the best sense of that term. The gloom which has been spread over the resting-place of the departed, and the forbidding appearance of our churchyards, are giving place to a more rational feeling and a better taste. The increasing light of the Son of Righteousness has, in a good degree, dispelled the darkness of the tomb, and chased away the unearthly spectres, which were supposed to visit nightly the sepulchres of the dead. Christians of all denominations, are beginning to regard the burial-places of their friends, as peaceful shades to which they can profitably resort to muse in sweet melancholy upon the uncertainty of human life, and to call up anew the dear remembrance of departed friends. Such views and feelings have created a disposition to beautify and adorn the ground where the dead are reposing. . . (Hudson, page 236-239) In the early 20th century Franklin P. Rice conducted a detailed inventory of three of Marlborough’s older cemeteries: Spring Hill, Old Common and Brigham. His detailed documentation of each of the monuments, headstones and footstones included their inscriptions, iconography and in some cases the name of the carver, providing a wealth of information that does not exist elsewhere. Many of the inscriptions that were clear in 1908 are no longer legible and stones that existed then have since disappeared. His records provide an important base line for current study of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries. Old Common Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 as part of the Marlborough Center Historic District. The other seven historic cemeteries are currently in the process of being listed. Listing on the National Register provides formal recognition of the historical significance of a property, offers opportunities for grant funding, and provides limited protection against inappropriate intrusions. However it does not offer guidance to the city in how best to protect these important but fragile historic resources. This Preservation Plan was commissioned by the City of Marlborough to identify critical issues facing each of the historic cemeteries, to establish priorities for addressing these issues, and to offer guidance on specific solutions. The plan provides a framework for evaluating the cemeteries, both individually and collectively, for establishing treatment principles, and identifying priority projects. Additional work may be needed to implement some of the recommendations, to determine specific construction details, and to prepare cost estimates. Preparation of this plan has been funded by the City of Marlborough and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management. The Marlborough Office of Community Development, the Marlborough Department of Public Works, and the Marlborough Historical Commission all participated in its preparation.
BACKGROUND Spring Hill Cemetery (1675), Marlborough’s oldest burial ground, is a well-preserved cemetery that retains strong historical associations and a diverse collection of slate headstones. It is also the burial place of many of the town’s notable early citizens, including Rev. William Brimsmead, the town’s first minister; Rev. Robert Breck, the town’s second minister; and many of the town’s founders. The cemetery, which was active for over 300 years, has approximately 650 recorded burials dating from 1675 to 1977. It is also an unusually well-documented property, thanks to the efforts of early 20th century historian Franklin P. Rice, who transcribed all the inscriptions, documented family relationships and identified the work of many of the stone carvers. (Note: Old Common and Brigham Cemeteries were also documented by Rice.) Spring Hill Cemetery, located near the eastern edge of the downtown business district, is a triangular parcel of 2.62 acres that is surrounded by a residential neighborhood. The entrance to the nearly landlocked parcel is at the narrow southern end, at the intersection of High and Brown Streets. The cemetery is in two distinct sections. The steep lower section is rocky and tree covered with areas of exposed ledge. The northern section, where most of the burials occurred, is more level and open. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Spatial organization based on individual graves in rough rows facing west, with a few family lots. Steep topography in southern end with exposed rock outcrops, more level topography in northern section. Approximately 383 slate headstones dating from 1675 through the 19th century, some with footstones. Some of the headstones have been attributed to known carvers. Approximately 57 marble headstones, most dating to the 19th century, which display a range of styles and motifs. Six marble obelisks and three marble pillars. Four granite-fronted earthen mound tombs at crest of hill. Goodale lot, an L-shaped raised lot enclosed by granite curbing and a few other 19th century lots marked by granite corner posts. Front retaining wall of rough-cut stone with granite gate posts and adjacent stone steps. Fieldstone and cut-granite wall along eastern boundary and portions of northern boundary. Steep entry drive leading up into cemetery, used only by service vehicles. Scattered mature deciduous trees in steep southern section, few trees in northern section, wooded area along eastern perimeter.
Spring Hill Cemetery
View of Spring Hill Cemetery looking northeast, showing predominance of slate headstones with a few marble headstones and monuments.
Two of the four tombs at Spring Hill show signs of major settling. The tree adjacent to the Parmenter tomb at left has recently been removed to eliminate pressure on the structure.
Spring Hill Cemetery ISSUES & RECOMMENDATIONS As Marlborough’s oldest cemetery, Spring Hill has special significance to the community. It also presents more challenging preservation issues than some of the other cemeteries. Headstones, Footstones and Monuments At least five marble headstones at Spring Hill Cemetery have become loose from their base and are in danger of falling or being stolen. Reattach immediately for the safety of stones and cemetery visitors. Stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees should be reset as a preventive measure to assure their long-term preservation. There are approximately 33 stones that require resetting. A small percentage of the monuments, headstones and footstones at Spring Hill Cemetery exhibit brownish-yellow biological growth. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser approved for use on monuments. There are at least headstones that are broken into multiple fragments. Repair of these should be undertaken with the advice of a conservator. One that should be given high priority is the Rev. William Brimsmead table stone. Tombs Two of the four tombs show signs of major settling. Reset lintels, headers and right wing wall on Parmenter tomb and wing walls on tomb at far left. Front Wall and East Wall Spring Hill Cemetery is tucked away on a dead end street with only limited street frontage. Its front wall is crumbling and is usually obscured by parked cars. Rebuild front wall, regrade on top of wall, rebuild entry steps. Consider adding iron fence (there is evidence that one previously existed here). Add sign as at other historic cemeteries. Sections of the east wall have collapsed over time. Rebuild deteriorated sections of stone wall. Vegetation Invasive vegetation, including poison ivy, is sprouting around the base of some of the monuments. Remove invasive vegetation to prevent damage to headstones. Work should be done by hand as herbicides can damage stones, particularly marble. At the northern edge of the cemetery, houses are visible and detract from the historic character of the cemetery. Selectively plant a few trees to screen houses. Perimeter Fence Most of Spring Hill abuts rear yards of adjacent residences. Current chain link fencing around perimeter of cemetery is deteriorated and broken in places. Replace with new black vinyl covered chain link for improved security and appearance.
Spring Hill Cemetery ISSUES & RECOMMENDATIONS continued Entry Road The entry drive is steep and sections of asphalt are washed out. Repair entry road as far as granite bar, for use by service vehicles only.
Spring Hill has changed little since this 1934 plan, which illustrates the irregular arrangement of burial lots and the landlocked nature of the property.
BACKGROUND Old Common Cemetery (1706) was the second burial ground established in Marlborough. The roughly one acre property is located in center of the city near the downtown business district. It is bounded by Rawlins Street on the west, Central Street on the North, Prospect Street on the east and the former Marlborough High School on the south. The site that is now Old Common Cemetery was part of a 200-acre Indian Planting Field in the 17th century. The area became Marlborough’s town common in the early 18th century, part of which was set aside as a cemetery. In the nearly 300 years since the establishment of the cemetery there have been over 250 recorded burials, the first of which occurred in 1706. There may also be earlier burials associated with the site’s previous use by native Americans. Old Common, like Spring Hill Cemetery, strongly reflects its colonial origins, with predominantly slate headstones laid out in rough rows facing west. It has an unusually large and diverse collection of early slates, many illustrating the work of skilled carvers. There are also a few later monuments and one memorial to the praying Indians buried there. Unlike Marlborough’s other historic cemeteries, Old Common is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places (as part of the Marlborough Center Historic District). It has also been rehabilitated as part of a larger initiative related to the Old Common area, with new paths and new fencing added. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Spatial organization based on individual graves arranged in rough rows facing west. Monuments and headstones include: 221 slate headstones, with a wide range of motifs from death’s head to willow and urn 19 marble headstones displaying a range of 19th century styles 4 monuments, two marble and two granite 1 commemorative plaque. One mature larch, the only remaining tree on a site once scattered with trees
Old Common Cemetery
View of Old Common Cemetery looking southwest from the corner of Central and Prospect Streets with new fence and walkway in the foreground.
One of the major issues to be addressed at Old Common is resetting severely leaning headstones to ensure their preservation.
Old Common Cemetery
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS Old Common Cemetery is in excellent condition after its recent rehabilitation. There are two issues that require additional attention. The first is stone preservation, especially resetting of severely leaning headstones. The second is tree replacement. Headstones and Footstones Severely leaning stones are at risk of breaking and are a potential hazard to visitors. Reset stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees to prevent future damage. There are approximately 15 stones that require resetting and several others where resetting is optional. A small number of the monuments, headstones and footstones at Old Common Cemetery exhibit various forms of biological growth. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser recommended for use on monuments. There are at least several headstones that are broken into multiple fragments. Repair of these should be undertaken with the advice of a conservator. This is an expensive process that should be initiated only when there is a high likelihood of success. Vegetation The cemetery is in the midst of the downtown area and is surrounded on three sides by parking, with the result that the modern world intrudes into the cemetery. An 1878 bird’s eye view shows the cemetery heavily planted with both deciduous and evergreen trees, but today there is only one larch tree remaining. Selectively plant trees in areas of the cemetery where there are no headstones and where no graves are likely to be located.
1934 Plan of Old Common Cemetery 9
Wilson Cemetery (1764) was the third burial ground established in Marlborough. It is located on Wilson Road a short distance east of the center of town and is surrounded on two sides by Evergreen Cemetery, established in 1956. At 1.22 acres, Wilson is one of Marlborough’s smaller burial grounds, although there have been over 230 recorded burials. The earliest death date is 1764 and the latest is 2000. Wilson Cemetery began as a small neighborhood burial ground and since the mid-19th century has been under municipal ownership. The cemetery is divided into two distinct sections. The northern section contains the earlier graves, which are arranged in rough west facing rows and are mostly marked by slate headstones. The later southern section is laid out in a grid of family lots which are marked by marble headstones and granite monuments. Wilson, like the other three small neighborhood cemeteries (Brigham, Robin Hill and Weeks), reflects the 19th century transition from unadorned burial ground to cemetery, with spatial organization displaying both individual graves and family lots, stones that illustrate a wide range of imagery and iconography, and embellishments such as roads and plantings. Wilson Cemetery, active for nearly 240 years, displays an unusually wide range of funerary taste for a small cemetery, depicting styles that were popular from the late-18th century through the late 20th and demonstrating evolving ideas of funerary art. The epitaphs expressively convey family relationships, religious beliefs, and attitudes towards death. The cemetery contains the graves of one Revolutionary War veteran, one Civil War veteran, and one World War II veteran. It also documents the 19th century social structure of the community, including the high rate of infant mortality. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Cemetery in two distinct sections. North side has primarily slate headstones arranged in irregular rows. South side has marble and granite monuments arranged in family lots. 217 burial markers include: 42 slate headstones, with motifs from death’s head to willow and urn, many with footstones 86 marble headstones displaying a range of 19th century styles 14 family monuments, all granite 74 flat or low markers typically used in association with family monuments one stone and brick faced hillside tomb (Robert Eames) located along north edge of cemetery Mortared stone wall along Wilson Street. Wide turf path running east/west through center of cemetery, with parallel secondary path to the south. Woodland along northern edge as a backdrop, black spruces planted along south and east.
View southeast from Wilson Street with Wilson Cemetery in the foreground and Evergreen Cemetery beyond the spruce hedge.
View northeast from central path with Wilson family headstones in the foreground and Robert Eames tomb in the background at right.
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS Wilson Cemetery, which is no longer active, is generally in good condition. The most pressing need is to preserve damaged or leaning headstones, footstones and monuments. Other recommendations relate to preserving and enhancing the overall character of the cemetery. Headstones, Footstones and Monuments Six stones at Wilson Cemetery have become loose from their base and are in danger of falling over or being stolen. Reattach immediately for the safety of stones and cemetery visitors. Severely leaning stones are at risk of breaking and are a potential hazard to visitors. Reset stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees. There are approximately 17 stones that require resetting and others where resetting is optional. Approximately 1/4 of the monuments, headstones and footstones at Wilson Cemetery exhibit various types of biological growth. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser recommended for use on monuments. Many of the marble headstones are extremely dirty, with over a century of accumulated grime. Use a gentle low pressure steam wash (with no added chemicals) to clean them. There are at least four marble headstones that are broken into multiple fragments. Repair of these should be undertaken with the advice of a conservator. Identity Wilson Cemetery is not clearly identifiable as separate from Evergreen Cemetery, and is not generally recognized as one of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries. In order to make Wilson Cemetery more visible, install perimeter fence (similar to that at Old Common Cemetery) adjacent to spruces on south and east sides. Install sign for Wilson Cemetery similar to that used at other small neighborhood cemeteries. Vegetation The forest edge along the north side of the cemetery is expanding and encompassing some of the headstones. Prune back vegetation at northern edge to preserve headstones. The spruces planted around the south and east perimeter of the cemetery are nearing maturity. Some have already been removed. Once spruces deteriorate to the point that they no longer read as a row, remove remaining spruces and replant with this or other species. Remove large tree that is growing on top of the Eames tomb as a preventive measure to protect tomb from further settling and damage. The large modern cemetery building immediately behind Wilson Cemetery detracts from the historic cemetery. Plant vegetation to screen cemetery building. Utility Lines
Overhead utility lines run through the center of the cemetery. These should be relocated or placed underground as they detract from the historic character of the cemetery.
Plan of Wilson Cemetery with older section at the top (north) and newer section at the bottom (south). Northwest corner has become overgrown. Evergreen Cemetery is to the south and east.
Brigham Cemetery (1793) was the fourth burial ground established in Marlborough. It is located off West Main Street near Crescent Street in the western part of the community. It has a narrow frontage onto West Main Street but is largely surrounded St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery and is often mistaken as part of that cemetery. At 1.12 acre, Brigham is one of Marlborough’s smaller burial grounds and is relatively simple in design. Brigham Cemetery was established when members of the Brigham family who died of smallpox were denied burial in municipal cemeteries. It later came under the auspices of the Unitarian church and since the mid-19th century has been under municipal ownership. The spatial organization of the cemetery is created by a system of family burial lots laid out in rough rows parallel to Crescent Street. There are over 200 burials that occurred between 1893 and 1934, with most dating to the 19th century. Brigham, like the other three small neighborhood cemeteries (Robin Hill, Weeks and Wilson) reflects the 19th century transition from unadorned burial ground to cemetery, with spatial organization based on family lots rather than individual graves, stones that display more sentimental imagery and iconography, and embellishments such as paths and plantings. The monumentation illustrates the transition from slate to marble to granite headstones, and displays a range of motifs and carving styles. Several of the headstones have been signed by their carvers. The epitaphs expressively convey family relationships, religious beliefs, and attitudes towards death. The cemetery contains the graves of 19 Revolutionary War veterans and seven Civil War veterans. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Spatial organization based 71 individual graves and family burial lots, several with curbing and/or terracing, others with corner posts. All monuments and headstones face southwest. Monuments and headstones include: 12 family monuments of marble and granite 73 slate headstones, most with willow and urn motif 83 marble headstones displaying a range of 19th century styles 19 flat or low granite markers, most associated with 20th century burials. Iron entrance gate with granite pillars on West Main Street, with narrow pathway leading into cemetery. Secondary unmarked entrance through St. Mary’s Cemetery. Piled fieldstone walls on three sides, with concrete and wire fencing on southeast side. Mature deciduous trees scattered throughout cemetery.
View of Brigham Cemetery looking east with Walter Bigelow monument, the largest in the cemetery, in curbed lot at far left.
View of Brigham Cemetery looking west with slate headstones and Boyd curbed lot at far left.
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS Brigham Cemetery, which is no longer active, is generally in good condition. The most pressing need is to secure loose stones. The second issue that should be addressed is preservation of monuments, headstones and footstones that are leaning severely, are damaged or exhibit biological growth. Other recommendations relate to preserving and enhancing the character of the cemetery. Monuments, Headstones and Footstones At least six headstones at Brigham Cemetery have become loose from their base and are in danger of falling or being stolen. Reattach immediately for the safety of stones and cemetery visitors. The Aaron and William Brigham monument, which commemorates the first burials at this cemetery, has also shifted and should be reset. Severely leaning stones are at risk of breaking and are a potential hazard to visitors. Reset stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees. There are approximately five stones that require resetting and several others where resetting is optional. About 15% of the marble headstones at Brigham Cemetery exhibit grayish green biological growth. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser designed for use on monuments. At least 12 headstones are broken into fragments or have earlier repairs that appear to be failing. Repair of these stones should be undertaken with the advice of a conservator. Vegetation Many of the large deciduous trees are nearing maturity and may soon need to be removed. Monitor condition of existing trees, remove as needed, and plant new deciduous trees. Remove dead ash tree. The stone walls along two edges of the cemetery are covered with invasive vegetation, including poison ivy. Remove invasive vegetation. Entry Gate The entry gate to Brigham Cemetery on West Main Street is deteriorated, with makeshift fencing on either side, and presents a poor public image. Rehabilitate entry gate and replace current side fencing with a more permanent and appropriate iron fencing. Replace deteriorated chain link fencing which lines the entry path with 4’ tall black vinyl-coated chain link. Perimeter Walls Once invasive vegetation has been removed from fieldstone perimeter walls, rebuild walls. Current concrete and wire fence on southeast boundary is deteriorating and does not clearly identify Brigham Cemetery as separate from St. Mary’s. Replace current fence with one similar to that at Old Common Cemetery. Install small sign at east entry.
1934 plan of Brigham Cemetery. The layout has changed little since then. Narrow walkway to West Main Street is only partially shown at upper right corner.
Rocklawn Cemetery (1813) was the fifth burial ground established in Marlborough. The five acre cemetery is located on Stevens Street one block north of Main Street at the east end of the downtown business district. It is surrounded by a residential neighborhood except on the southeast where there is a municipally-owned wooded parcel. Rocklawn is a particularly picturesque area that displays the rural cemetery style more fully than any of Marlborough’s other historic cemeteries. It is in two distinct parts. The first section, established in 1813, was initially known as Chipman Cemetery. It is a compact area with raised family lots arranged in a grid, and a diverse collection of 19th century headstones and family monuments. The focal point is the large Samuel Boyd lot. When an additional parcel was added north of the original cemetery in the 1860s, the entire area was renamed Rocklawn Cemetery. The newer section is higher in elevation and reflects late 19th century burial practices, with a mixture of marble and granite headstones and monuments. A brick receiving tomb is located between the two sections. There are roughly 1,000 burials in approximately 280 family lots dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. These include the graves of 65 Civil War veterans, three Spanish American War veterans, and two World War I veterans. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Cemetery divided into two parts: Chipman which is lower and older, and Rocklawn which is on higher ground and was established later. Spatial organization for both sections based on family burial lots. Steep topography which reinforces the difference between the two cemeteries, with Chipman substantially lower than Rocklawn. Mortared fieldstone retaining wall along the entire front of the cemetery. Piled fieldstone walls around remaining sides. Brick receiving tomb with slate roof and copper trim. Diverse collection of 19th and 20th century marble headstones, and marble and granite monuments. Several curbed lots, including the Samuel Boyd lot. Remnant row of arborvitae along front edge. Mature deciduous trees throughout cemetery, with unusually large and diverse specimens in newer section. Extensive road system, with named roads and informal paths between lots. Dry laid stone steps leading between the two sections. Pipe rail fence between the two sections.
View of Chipman section of Rocklawn Cemetery with curbed Samuel Boyd lot at the left.
View of newer section of Rocklawn Cemetery with Williams box tomb near center.
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS At Rocklawn Cemetery the most pressing need is to secure loose stones and monuments that could present a safety hazard or be stolen. Other key issues include preservation of the receiving tomb as well as headstones and footstones. Monuments, Headstones and Footstones Two monuments have been toppled from their bases and are in danger of being damaged or stolen. There are also several headstones that have become loose from their bases, presenting a potential hazard. Reattach immediately for the safety of stones and cemetery visitors. Severely leaning stones are at risk of breaking and are a potential hazard to visitors. Reset stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees. There are approximately five stones that require resetting and several others where resetting is optional. About 15% of the marble headstones at Rocklawn Cemetery exhibit grayish green biological growth. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser designed for use on monuments. At least 20 headstones, most in the older section of the cemetery, are broken into fragments or have earlier repairs that appear to be failing. Repair of these stones should be undertaken with the advice of a conservator. The Williams table tomb has settled with some joints now open. Reset stones of table tomb. Receiving Tomb The brick receiving tomb is generally in good condition but mortar is missing on a portion of the western façade and the vent window on the eastern façade is blocked up. Repair receiving tomb using care to match existing mortar and detailing. Roads and Steps The road between the two cemeteries and steeper portions of the roads at Rocklawn are deteriorating. Stabilize steep road between the two cemeteries. Resurface perimeter road at Rocklawn. Allow non-essential roads to revert to grass. The dry laid steps between the two cemeteries are uneven and sections are unstable, as are those leading to lot 41. Reset steps to ensure visitor safety. Vegetation Many of the large deciduous trees are nearing maturity and may soon need to be removed. Monitor condition of existing trees, remove as needed, and plant new trees. At Rocklawn select trees that preserve the visual interest and species diversity of current plantings. Sections of Rocklawn have been taken over by invasive vegetation, including poison ivy, Japanese knotweed and ailanthus. Remove invasive plants especially around lots and headstones, including lots on hillside below receiving tomb.
Perimeter Walls and Rail Fence Portions of the fieldstone perimeter wall have deteriorated over time. Rebuild fallen sections of stone wall (south wall at Chipman and entire perimeter at Rocklawn). Sections of the pipe rail fence between the two cemeteries are missing and other sections are deteriorated and unstable. Replace missing sections of fence and repair damaged sections.
This 1934 plan shows the clear distinction between the two section of the cemetery, with the older Chipman section at the bottom and the larger and more recent Rocklawn section at the top.
BACKGROUND Robin Hill Cemetery (1817) was the sixth burial ground established in Marlborough. It is located on Robin Hill Street (now Donald Lynch Boulevard) in the northwestern part of the community and is a remnant of earlier land use in a rapidly changing area. At one acre, it is the second smallest of the burial grounds in Marlborough and has the fewest recorded burials, only 27. The earliest confirmed death date is 1817 and the latest is 1999. Robin Hill Cemetery began as a small neighborhood burial ground and since the mid-19th century has been under municipal ownership. The cemetery is in two distinct sections. The western section is a mound-shaped hill with scattered white pines and little formal organization. There is a small cluster of graves on the western side of the hill and a single grave on the east side. The eastern portion of the cemetery is laid out in a grid of 25 family lots that appear as slightly raised areas in the topography. Seven of these have extant headstones. Robin Hill, like the other three small neighborhood cemeteries (Brigham, Weeks and Wilson), reflects the 19th century transition from unadorned burial ground to cemetery, with spatial organization based on family lots rather than individual graves. The predominantly marble headstones illustrate unpretentious mid-19th century styles, with epitaphs that express the sentimentality of that period. The cemetery contains the graves of one Revolutionary War veteran, three Civil War veterans, and one World War II veteran. It also documents the 19th century social structure of the community, including the high rate of infant mortality. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Spatial organization in two distinct sections: hilly, informal western section and flat eastern section with gridded lots. Dry laid fieldstone retaining wall at front edge, piled fieldstone walls on remaining three sides. Receiving tomb with granite block face and earthen top, built into front retaining wall. 24 headstones of marble, granite and bronze, some with footstones, 1817 to 1999 12 marble headstones (two in fragments) and one tiny marble obelisk 1 slate headstone 4 flat granite markers 6 post-1955 markers of various materials Entrances at north and south ends, leading to dirt track into cemetery. Used only for service vehicles. Cluster of white pines on the hill at west end of cemetery. Perimeter of cemetery screened at sides and rear by vegetation on adjacent properties.
Robin Hill Cemetery
View of western section of Robin Hill Cemetery from the street showing stone Retaining wall, receiving tomb, white pines and small cluster of headstones on west side of hill. The road along the southern edge is at the far right.
View from Robin Hill looking northeast with grid of 25 family lots visible in the background. Only seven of the lots have headstones although there may be additional unmarked graves. 23
Robin Hill Cemetery
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS Robin Hill Cemetery is generally in good condition and retains its historic ambiance despite dramatic changes in the surrounding area. It is not an active cemetery except for one lot on the western part of the hill where post-1955 burials have occurred. The most pressing issue is the need to secure the receiving tomb door. The second issue that should be addressed is leaning headstones. Other recommendations relate to preserving and enhancing the character of the cemetery. Receiving Tomb The wooden door of the receiving tomb is presently not secured. Provide secure lock to prevent unauthorized use of tomb and to eliminate potential safety hazard. Headstones and Footstones Severely leaning stones are at risk of breaking and are a potential hazard to visitors. Rest stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees. Three stones definitely require resetting (Sarah Cooke, Lucinda Rice, Amory Holman). There are several others where resetting is optional. Many of the marble headstones and footstones at Robin Hill Cemetery are covered with over a century of accumulated grime. Wash with gentle low pressure steam wash. White Pines The white pines, an important feature of the cemetery, are nearing maturity and may soon become a hazard. Monitor condition of existing white pines, remove as needed and plant new white pines to assure continued presence of pines. Fieldstone Wall Fieldstone perimeter wall has fallen over time. Rebuild deteriorated sections of stone wall.
Sketch map based on 1934 plan.
Weeks Cemetery (1837), located at the intersection of Sudbury Street and Concord Road in the northeastern part of the community, was the seventh burial ground established in Marlborough. The surrounding area is primarily woodland and late 20th century houses. At .72 acre, Weeks is the smallest of Marlborough’s burial grounds and one of the simplest in design. Weeks Cemetery began as a small neighborhood burial ground and since the mid-19th century has been under municipal ownership. The spatial organization of the cemetery is created by a system of family burial lots (only two of which have been added since 1934) and two individual graves laid out in rough rows parallel to Sudbury Street. There are four family monuments and 114 headstones that record approximately 140 burials that occurred between 1837 and 2000, with over two-thirds of the burials dating to the 19th century. All monuments and headstones face southwest. Weeks, like the other three small neighborhood cemeteries (Brigham, Robin Hill and Wilson) reflects the 19th century transition from unadorned burial ground to cemetery, with spatial organization based on family lots rather than individual graves, stones that display more sentimental imagery and iconography, and embellishments such as roads and plantings. The monumentation illustrates the transition from slate to marble to granite headstones, and displays a range of motifs and carving styles. At least three of the headstones have been signed by their carvers. The epitaphs expressively convey family relationships, religious beliefs, and attitudes towards death. The cemetery contains the graves of two Civil War veterans, one World War I veteran and one World War II veteran. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Spatial organization based 34 family burial lots, aligned roughly north/south. Older lots closest to Sudbury Street are slightly raised above the surrounding area. Some lots are marked by corner posts. Monuments and headstones include: four family monuments, two marble and two granite 17 slate headstones, most with willow and urn motif 64 marble headstones displaying a range of 19th century styles 33 flat or low granite and bronze headstones, most associated with 20th century burials. Piled fieldstone walls on all four sides, with openings on Sudbury Street and Concord Road. Entrances at north and west sides, leading to dirt track into cemetery. Used only for service vehicles. Several mature maple trees. Woodland on adjacent properties serves as backdrop.
View of Weeks Cemetery looking southeast from corner of Sudbury Street and Concord Road.
Detail of headstones with obelisk in the background. One of the most pressing issues at Weeks Cemetery is the need to repair loose and damaged headstones.
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS Weeks Cemetery is generally in good condition and retains its historic ambiance. It is not an active cemetery except for burials in existing lots. The most pressing issue is the need to secure loose stones that could present a safety hazard or be stolen. The second issue that should be addressed is preservation of monuments, headstones and footstones that are leaning severely or exhibit biological growth. Other recommendations relate to preserving and enhancing the character of the cemetery. Monuments, Headstones and Footstones Nine stones at Weeks Cemetery have become loose from their base and are in danger of falling over or being stolen. Reattach immediately for the safety of stones and cemetery visitors. Severely leaning stones are at risk of breaking and are a potential hazard to visitors. Reset stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees. There are approximately 18 stones that require resetting and several others where resetting is optional. Nearly half of the 114 of the monuments, headstones and footstones at Weeks Cemetery exhibit grayish green biological growth. Slates, marbles and granite appear to be equally vulnerable to this problem. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser designed for use on monuments. Many of the marble headstones and footstones are extremely dirty, with over a century of accumulated grime. Use a gentle low pressure steam wash (with no added chemicals) to clean them. At least five headstones are broken into multiple fragments. Repair of these should be undertaken with the advice of a conservator. This is an expensive process that should be initiated only when there is a high likelihood of success. Vegetation Low hanging branches (below 8 - 10’) may contribute to the problem of biological growth and present a potential hazard to staff and visitors. Prune overhanging branches to a height of at least 8’. The large maples are nearing maturity and may soon need to be removed. Monitor condition of existing trees, remove as needed, and plant new deciduous trees. While most of the perimeter of the cemetery is well-screened, the section immediately west of the sign is not. Plant tree to screen northwest corner. Fieldstone Wall The fieldstone perimeter wall has collapsed over time. Rebuild deteriorated sections of stone wall.
1934 plan of cemetery. The layout has changed little since then except that the road has become less distinct.
Maplewood Cemetery (1830s) was the eighth burial ground established in Marlborough. It is located northwest of the downtown area off Pleasant Street near the junction with Berlin Road. The cemetery is surrounded on all sides by a predominantly 20th century residential neighborhood, with houses visible from many parts of the cemetery. At 15 acres Maplewood is by far the largest of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries and contains the graves of several thousand of the town’s citizens. Maplewood was established in the early 19th century as a small neighborhood cemetery. The central section, with its classical and Victorian headstones and monuments and its curbed lots, reflects the cemetery’s early years. The western section (near Pleasant Street) was developed next, while the newest areas are in the eastern and northeastern sections. The perimeter areas reflect the later evolution of the cemetery, with smaller lots and a predominance of granite headstones. As Maplewood is substantially later and larger than Marlborough’s other historic cemeteries, it is very different in character. While most of Maplewood is less ornamental than Marlborough’s earlier cemeteries, it has strong associations with the 19th and early 20th century history of the community and its themes of immigration, population growth and the machine age. It is also where the Daughters of the American Revolution chose to place their Civil War monument, consisting of a statue of a Civil War soldier. CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES Cemetery laid out in a roughly rectilinear pattern defined by family lots of varying sizes. Land rising slightly to the east from Pleasant Street, reaching a high point near the center of the cemetery and dropping off gradually toward the eastern edge. Evidence of terracing in some sections of cemetery. One ornate cast iron fence (around Bigelow lot near center of cemetery) and 11 curbed lots. Mortared fieldstone retaining wall around entire perimeter of property. Collection of 19th and 20th century marble headstones, and marble and granite monuments, with one zinc monument. About 1/4 of headstones and monuments are marble, with the remaining 3/4 granite. Burial markers in classical, Victorian, Gothic and art deco styles. System of roads and paths arranged in relatively rectilinear layout. Remnant mature deciduous trees throughout cemetery, with beeches at front and maples in rows lining some of the roads. Brick receiving tomb with peaked asphalt shingle roof and remnants of original copper trim.
View of entrance to Maplewood Cemetery looking southeast from Pleasant Street.
View of terraced lots and remnant trees, looking east from center of cemetery.
ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS As Maplewood is the only one of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries that is still active, it has somewhat different needs than those that are less frequently used. The two most pressing needs are to repave key roads and to replant the rapidly disappearing trees. Many of the older marble headstones also need attention, as does the receiving tomb. Since Maplewood is a large cemetery and other projects are higher priority, the number of burial markers requiring various types of repairs has not been quantified for this cemetery. Roads The road system at Maplewood Cemetery is badly deteriorated. Since use is heavier here than at Marlborough’s other historic cemeteries, a functional road system is critical. Pave perimeter road, where most active burial sites are located, and several of the cross roads. Allow unused roads to revert to grass. Trees The once plentiful tree plantings at Maplewood are severely depleted and the remaining trees are reaching maturity and showing signs of stress, which will be exacerbated by road construction. A major replanting program is needed to restore trees. Additional water connections should be made or irrigation installed to allow adequate watering during the early life of the trees. Monuments, Headstones and Lot Enclosures The statue of a soldier that commemorates Marlborough’s Civil War dead, has lost his nose. Find conservator or sculptor to carve new nose for this statue, which was a gift from the Daughters of the American Revolution. About 20% of the marble headstones and monuments at Maplewood Cemetery exhibit brownish yellow biological growth. Wash stones displaying biological growth with a cleanser designed for use on monuments. Conduct inventory of stones that are loose, removed from their bases or in need of conservation. Reattach and/or repair as needed, giving first priority to any that are hazardous or likely to injure visitors. The ornate cast iron fence around the Bigelow lot is significant because it is the only such lot in the cemetery. It is rusted and some of the ornamental details are missing. The curbing on at least one of the granite curbed lots has settled badly and could potentially become a hazard. Reset curbing. Receiving Tomb The brick receiving tomb is showing serious mortar loss to the extent that it could eventually cause structural failure if not remedied. Many of the details still evident on the receiving tomb at Rocklawn are missing but could be restored.
This early 20th century map clearly illustrates the rectilinear arrangement of Maplewood Cemetery and its large size relative to Marlborough’s other historic cemeteries.
APPROACH The National Park Service has established standards for the preservation of historic properties that are applicable to all types of historic resources. Central to the Park Service approach is the concept of character defining features, which are prominent aspects, qualities or characteristics of a property that contribute significantly to its historic character. These vary depending on the particular property, but for a historic cemetery but they would typically include burial markers, lot enclosures, structures, spatial organization, circulation system, topography and vegetation. Understanding character defining features is critical in planning for preservation and use of a historic property, and for determining treatment priorities. A list of character defining features has been included in the preceding discussion of each of the individual cemeteries. Recommendations for historic cemetery preservation must also take into account historical significance, existing conditions, intended uses and financial resources available to support the cemetery. Decisions regarding individual features must be made within the framework of an overall plan rather than on an ad hoc basis. The following goals, which are listed roughly in priority order, provide a general framework for decision-making and priority setting. Eliminate safety hazards, including threats to people and site resources. Preserve character defining features, such as monuments, headstones, footstones, walls, topography, circulation systems, and plantings which contribute the historic character of the cemetery. Provide universal access within the constraints of the cemetery. Improve degraded or disfunctional areas. Enhance use and enjoyment of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries through expanded outreach programs. This chapter summarizes the issues identified at Marlborough’s eight historic cemeteries and offers general guidance regarding solutions. However, burial ground preservation, and treatment of burial markers in particular, is best approached with caution as inappropriate treatments can do more harm than good. When in doubt, it is advisable to be conservative, to investigate all options and their implications, and to seek professional advice. Previous inappropriate repairs, which only make the job harder for future generations, are evident in cemeteries throughout New England. There are several good sources for technical information regarding historic cemeteries. These should be consulted before work on burial markers is undertaken. They include: Lynnette Strangstad’s A Graveyard Preservation Primer, which provides practical information on a range of cemetery-related issues, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management’s Preservation Guidelines for Municipally Owned Historic Burial Grounds and Cemeteries, which includes general recommendations and case studies. The Association for Gravestone Studies (www.gravestonestudies.org) also has fact sheets and other information on their website.
BURIAL MARKERS Burial markers are the essence of a burial ground or cemetery. They tell the story of a community and those who are buried there through their artistry, inconography, epitaphs, material and arrangement. Marlborough is fortunate to have a particularly rich legacy of burial markers in its historic cemeteries. These date from the headstone of Captain Edward Hutchinson (1675) who is buried at Spring Hill to burials that have occurred in the past few years – more than 325 years of funerary art. Some of the earliest headstones are of rough-cut fieldstone. Most of the 18th century stones are of slate, with the earliest ones displaying a death’s head, followed by cherubs and later by willow and urn designs. Marble became popular in the 19th century because it could more easily be carved into ornate forms. However over the long term the softness of the stone became a liability as it became evident that it deteriorated more quickly. The mid-19th century also brought a greater range of headstone styles and the introduction of family lots rather than individual graves. By the late 19th century granite was the almost universal choice because of its greater durability. The preservation strategy for historic burial markers should be multi-faceted involving: preventive care, quick response to problems, routine preservation by cemetery staff, and involvement of conservators for more complex issues. The following discussion is divided into preventive care and conservation. Obviously preventive care is far preferable as it is better for the stones, less expensive, and has a greater likelihood of success. Once a stone is damaged, conservation is an expensive and often high risk option. Preventive Care By far the most effective way to preserve a burial ground is to catch problems before they become serious. At the most fundamental level this is done through routine maintenance such as mowing, trimming, clearing and regularly inspecting the burial ground. Mowing is the most basic and time consuming operation for a historic cemetery. It is also potentially one of the most damaging, as careless use of mowers can cause permanent damage to stones. Rubber bumpers on mowers can minimize impacts to burial markers but the best solution is to hand trim around the markers with a nylon tipped weed trimmer. Although there is evidence of mower damage in some of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries, notably at Spring Hill, it appears to be old and not related to current maintenance practices. While invasive vegetation adjacent to burial markers is not widespread in Marlborough’s historic cemeteries, there are several places where corrective measures are needed. Some areas at Wilson and Rocklawn are becoming overgrown, while at Spring Hill poison ivy has taken over a few of the headstones, particularly those lying on the ground, which are difficult to trim around. Removal of vegetation around burial markers should be done by hand, herbicides should not be used adjacent to headstones, particularly marble. Another common issue is the presence of lichens and biological growth on stones, which was found to some extent in nearly all of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries, but most often in those with more tree cover. Biological growth should ideally be removed as it can eat away at the stone. However, doing so can cause damage the stone, so it is important to assure that the stone is stable and that removal will not further degrade it. Preservation Guidelines for Municipally Owned Historic Burial Grounds and Cemeteries and A Graveyard Preservation Primer both offer advice on the safest way to approach this.
Washing stones can be an effective way of removing years of dirt and debris and improving the appearance of a graveyard. However, it should only be done selectively on stones that are so dirty that their legends and artistry are obscured (in Marlborough this would be primarily marbles). Preservation Guidelines for Municipally Owned Historic Burial Grounds and Cemeteries outlines recommended approaches and potential pitfalls. One of the most effective preventive techniques that Marlborough could undertake would be to reset stones that are leaning more than 15 degrees (typically slates). This is a relatively straightforward task that would greatly benefit stones that are at risk for falling or breaking. A related, but slightly more complex issue, is stones that are broken off at the base. The preservation section of the Association for Gravestone Studies website offers specific guidance on this technique.
The above diagram from A Graveyard Preservation Primer illustrates how to reset severely leaning stones. Conservation Treatment by a trained conservator is often needed once a stone is broken or damaged. This can range from reattaching components that have become separated to fitting together multiple fragments like pieces of a puzzle. Previous repairs that have failed are the best reminder to use extreme caution. Marlborough has many cases where a stone has come loose from its base and is in danger of falling or being stolen. In cases like this where a the components are intact, reattachment is a relatively straightforward task that could be undertaken by city staff, using guidelines from the preservation manuals cited above. Reassembly of multiple fragments, especially pieces that have been separately for a long time and have become eroded, should be undertaken by only a stone conservator.
Choices become difficult once a stone is badly damaged. Conservation is expensive and should only be undertaken on stones that have a high likelihood of success, are historically significant or where special funding is available. Where conservation is not an option, stones can be wrapped in filter cloth and buried onsite in clean sand. While moving stones is not generally recommended, this is sometimes done if there if there is good storage space available (the receiving tombs at Rocklawn and Maplewood might serve this function), good record keeping and no other options.
Stone fragments lying in a pile on the ground are highly vulnerable to mower damage, invasive plants and generally at high risk for rapid deterioration. At this point there is no ideal solution. STRUCTURES Buildings The only two buildings in Marborough’s historic cemeteries are the two brick receiving tombs, one at Rocklawn and one at Maplewood. Both are used only on a limited basis for storage. The one at Rocklawn retains distinctive features such as a slate roof while the one at Maplewood has an asphalt replacement roof and some loss of other details. These buildings are unique and distinctive features that should be considered high priority for preservation. Work should be undertaken with the advice of a preservation consultant with expertise in masonry repair.
The receiving tomb at Maplewood shows serious loss of mortar and is in urgent need of repair. The one at Rocklawn is in better condition and retains more of is historic detailing. Tombs Several of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries (Spring Hill, Wilson, Robin Hill) have earth covered tombs with granite faces. Two of those at Spring Hill and the Robert Eames tomb at Wilson show evidence of settling. Initial steps (which have already been taken in several cases) are to remove vegetation that may be creating extra pressure on a tomb and to monitor for any signs of additional movement. Where settling is severe, as in the Parmenter tomb at Spring Hill, the leaning stones should be reset. The earthen receiving tomb at Robin Hill is structurally sound but needs to be secured. The Williams box tomb at Rocklawn shows signs of settlement and unsuccessful past repairs. Joints have become wider over time and are now several inches in places, which does not provide adequate protection for those interred here and could lead to water damage and additional settling. Walls and Gates Dry laid fieldstone walls define the perimeter of nearly all of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries. These are historically appropriate and provide adequate security in most cases. However, many of the walls have disintegrated over the years and are in need of rebuilding. Many of the front walls are mortared retaining walls, which present greater preservation challenges. In many cases past repairs have relied on excessive use of mortar which alters the appearance of the wall and does not always resolve the problems. In general the goal is to match the original mortar. Use of hard cement mortars is damaging to stones and usually does not produce a satisfactory effect. These walls should be treated as historic resources and work should be undertaken with the advice of someone experienced with historic masonry repairs.
The Parmenter tomb at Spring Hill has settled and the upper stone is leaning out from the ground.
The front wall at Spring Hill has been poorly repaired in the past and is in need of additional work. The surroundings, which are overgrown and unattractive, are frequently blocked by parked cars.
Brigham Cemetery is the only one of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries to retain a historic gate. Most of the other cemeteries are ungated or secured by a chain across the entrance. At Brigham where the historic gates are deteriorated and the adjacent fencing has been altered, gates should be repaired and adjacent fencing replaced with a more compatible style, as this is the public face of the cemetery. At Spring Hill where there is evidence of a past iron gate, a reproduction could be installed if this would serve a useful security function. The current metal utility gates at Maplewood Cemetery provide security but are not historically appropriate. If gates are needed, the current ones should be replaced with gates more compatible with the historic cemetery. In cases where no walls exist and historic fencing is missing, it may be necessary to add compatible modern fencing, as was done recently at Old Common. This type of fencing would also work well where fencing is needed at Wilson and Brigham. In the few cases where greater security is needed, stone boundary walls should be supplemented with chain link fencing. Where chain link fencing is recommended (typically in less visible areas) it should be black and vinyl coated to minimize the its visual effect. Lot Enclosures One of the distinctive features of 19th century cemeteries was the use of enclosures to define the family burial lots established during this period. Most of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries have remnants of at least some of these. Corner posts are the most frequent, but there are also granite curbed lots and one remaining cast iron fence. In most cases there are no preservation issues associated with these features, but the granite curbing on one of the lots at Maplewood needs to be reset and the Bigelow cast iron fence, also at Maplewood, is urgently in need of preservation.
The Bigelow lot at Maplewood is a focal point of the cemetery and the only lot in the city to retain an elaborate cast iron fence. The fence is rusted and some details are missing but it is salvageable if action is taken soon.
CIRCULATION SYSTEM Roads and Paths Marlborough’s smaller historic cemeteries have only remnants of earlier roads, typically turf covered, and this appears to be adequate given their small size and limited use. Rocklawn and Maplewood both have a more extensive road system. The one at Rocklawn receives only moderate use, while portions of the one at Maplewood are more heavily used, particularly around the perimeter of the cemetery where burials are still occurring. The recommended approach is to allow roads that are unused to revert to grass and to selectively pave those at Maplewood that must accommodate regular traffic. This will be a major undertaking as the current roads lack adequate sub-base and must be completely rebuilt. Almost all of the paths in Marlborough’s historic cemeteries are turf, which is generally adequate, as they are little used. The one exception is Old Common, where new paths have recently been installed. When new paths are added, they should meet ADA requirements for universal access.
At Old Common Cemetery, the flagstone path in the foreground looks well several years after installation while the stone dust path to the rear is becoming overgrown with weeds and grass. While the initial cost of the flagstone was higher, the life cycle cost is likely to be substantially lower. Stairs Dry laid steps were found near the entrance at Spring Hill and between the two sections of Rocklawn. While neither steps are heavily used, both should be reset for safety, as should the set of steps leading to lot 41 at Rocklawn, which are quite unsteady.
TOPOGRAPHY Many of the historic cemeteries are sited on hillsides. This is typically not a problem although there are small areas that would benefit from minor regrading to improve drainage and reduce erosion. Another characteristic aspect of some of Marlborough’s historic cemeteries is the use of terracing and raised topography to define individual lots.
Detail showing terraced topography at Maplewood Cemetery. VEGETATION Trees Early burial grounds were bleak, barren and unembellished by trees, while 19th century cemeteries were created to be a solace to the living as well as a burial place for the dead. Over time vegetation has grown up in most older cemeteries, softening their appearance. Plantings around the perimeter can also screen adjacent land uses that might otherwise be intrusive. Marlborough has done an excellent job of maintaining its historic trees and has an ongoing program of removing any that are dead, badly diseased or harming burial markers. It is also important to replant after trees have been removed. Species should be carefully selected for appropriateness in a historic cemetery (see discussion in Preservation Guidelines for Municipally Owned Historic Burial Grounds and Cemeteries). They should also be carefully sited away from burial markers and in places where no burials are likely to have occurred. If there is any possibility of damaging graves, small trees should be used and holes should be hand dug. In some cases, the Massachusetts Historical Commission may require that an archeologist be onsite during the work.
Lawn maintenance is one of the most time consuming and expensive tasks associated with maintaining a cemetery. It also creates a look that did not exist until the mid-20th century. While a modern turf lawn may be appropriate in active sections of Maplewood, it is not necessary at the other historic cemeteries, where longer grass is more appropriate and easier to maintain. In the short-term the mowing regime can be adjusted to allow for the longer grass. In the long run, especially in the oldest and least visited cemeteries, it is desireable to experiment with different seed mixes such as sheep fescues, which particularly lend themselves to this type of treatment. SITE AMENITIES Cemetery Furnishings Marlborough’s historic cemeteries have few site amenities (such as benches, trash receptacles etc) and such items are generally not recommended for cemeteries with low levels of use. The one feature that is appropriate is a sign identifying each of the cemeteries, which exists at several of the smaller cemetries. The current green and gold sign works well. Flagpoles are present in several of the cemeteries (Maplewood, Rocklawn) and should remain as long as the flag can be appropriately maintained. OTHER ISSUES Maintenance and Operations Marlborough currently does an excellent job of day to day maintenance at its historic cemeteries but does not have the financial or staff resources to tackle larger projects. Several strategies might help to expand the effectiveness of city crews. One would be to establish a system of regular inspections of each cemetery (perhaps three times per year) which would identify problems (such as loose stones, invasive vegetation) so they could be put into a work plan or, if needed, into the capital budget. Another would be to undertake training in cemetery preservation techniques either through a community workshop in Marlborough or through a short-term training course (usually one week) such as is periodically offered through some of the larger historic cemeteries or through the National Park Service. Archeology Another important consideration is that cemeteries are considered archeologically sensitive, especially the older ones, as there may undocumented graves or buried headstones. Any subsurface disturbance that goes down more than one foot should be preceded by archeological testing and may require a permit from the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Research While nominating the cemeteries to the National Register is an important step, the historical work involved in preparing the National Register nomination involves only a relatively general background. The next level of research would be a stone by stone inventory. The meticulous recording of epitaphs, imagery and family relationships that was done for Spring Hill, Old Common and Brigham cemeteries in the early 20th century by Franklin P. Rice is an example of the type of information that would be useful to genealogists. Stone by stone inventories today also frequently include photographs and condition assessments and have been used to recover stolen stones and other cemetery artifacts.
Another example of the value of such work is the elaborate inscription for Rev. Robert Breck, Marlborough’s second minister. This was written in Latin and meticulously translated into English by Rice. Today the inscription has been completely eroded and is no longer legible. Without Rice’s work, we would no longer have a record of this wonderful inscription, part of which reads. “Beneath this mound are preserved the earthly remains of that truly venerable theologian, Robert Breck. His celestial part has gone to the myriads of angels in heaven, and to the spirits of the just made perfect. He was of a discriminating genius, and by nature a man of enlarged mind and sound judgement, unified to common courage of spirit. As to his acquired parts, he was in the learned tongues exceedingly skillful, and he was furnished with no common measure of polite literature. What to others was difficult, he easily mastered by the force of his genius and close application . . . Even prophets do not live forever.” Outreach The National Register nomination process also provides an opportunity to begin an outreach program for the historic cemeteries, which will become more critical as the city begins to seek funds to implement some of the recommendations of this report. Cemetery tours, newspaper articles, cable TV programs, interpretive brochures, and outreach to local schools and service clubs are just some of the possibilities. Boston even has an annual fall bicycle tour of its historic cemeteries. Involving volunteers in labor intensive tasks is another way of raising awareness of the historic cemeteries, but tasks must be well planned and well organized.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS This summary is organized by size and complexity of issues rather than by date of establishment, with smaller cemeteries listed first. Within each cemetery, recommendations are more or less in priority order. Robin Hill Cemetery Secure receiving tomb door. Reset three severely leaning headstones. Selectively clean headstones (approx 6). Monitor old pines, allow white pines to regenerate. Rebuild deteriorated sections of perimeter wall. Old Common Cemetery Reset severely leaning headstones (approx 15). Treat selected stones for biological growth (approx 20). Selectively plant replacement trees around perimeter of cemetery. Hire conservator to assess stones in need of conservation (approx 5). Weeks Cemetery Reattach marble headstones that are loose from their base (approx 9). Reset severely leaning headstones (approx 18). Treat selected stones for biological growth (approx 50). Selectively clean marble headstones (approx 30). Trim low hanging branches (below 10’). Monitor older trees, selectively replant. Rebuild deteriorated sections of perimeter wall. Hire conservator to assess stones in need of conservation (10-15). Wilson Cemetery Reattach marble headstones that are loose from their base (approx 6). Reset severely leaning headstones (approx 17). Treat selected stones for biological growth (approx 50). Selectively clean marble headstones (approx 25). Install perimeter fence (south and east) and new sign. Prune back forest edge along northern edge. Replace spruces once a substantial number are lost. Remove large tree growing on Eames tomb. Screen modern cemetery building with plantings. Relocate overhead utility lines. Hire conservator to assess stones in need of conservation (4-6).
Implementation Brigham Cemetery Reattach headstones and monuments that are loose from their base (approx 8). Reset severely leaning headstones (approx 5). Treat selected stones for biological growth (approx 30). Install new perimeter fence (southeast side) and new sign. Remove invasive vegetation along stone perimeter walls. Rebuild walls. Restore entry gate, install replacement chain link fence along pathway. Build new fence along southeast edge of cemetery (as at Old Common). Monitor existing trees, remove dead/diseased trees, replace as needed. Hire conservator to assess stones in need of conservation (approx 12). Spring Hill Cemetery Reattach headstones and monuments that are loose from their base (approx 5). Reset severely leaning headstones (approx 33). Treat selected stones for biological growth (approx 40). Hire conservator to assess stones in need of conservation (approx 12), including Brimsmead. Stabilize tombs that show evidence of settlement (2). Repair front stone wall, steps and adjacent area. Add sign as at other cemeteries. Rebuild deteriorated sections of perimeter wall. Remove invasive vegetation adjacent to headstones and monuments. Selectively plant trees in northern section to screen houses. Replace chain link perimeter fence with 6’ black vinyl coated chain link. Resurface steepest section of entry drive. Rocklawn Cemetery Reattach headstones and monuments that are loose from their base (approx 5). Reset severely leaning headstones (approx 5). Treat selected stones for biological growth (approx 40). Repair mortar on west side of receiving tomb, add screening at vent window. Reset steps on steep section and at lot 41. Remove invasive vegetation, especially below receiving tomb. Monitor existing trees, remove dead/diseased trees, replace as needed. Rebuild deteriorated sections of perimeter wall. Repair pipe rail fence, replace missing sections. Hire conservator to assess stones in need of conservation (approx 20), including Williams table tomb. Maplewood Cemetery Resurface perimeter road and several of the cross roads. Replant trees throughout cemetery, install extra water or irrigation system. Repoint receiving tomb, replace missing detail. Replace nose on Civil War statue. Treat selected stones for biological growth (at least 100). Conduct inventory of stone treatment needs. Restore cast iron fence around Bigelow lot. Reset granite lot curbing (1).
Implementation FUNDING AND PRIORITY SETTING The guidelines for decision-making and priority setting at the beginning of Chapter 3 provide a framework for identifying priority projects but this framework must be applied flexibly as issues change or new opportunities arise. The City of Marlborough has already taken two important steps in having the cemeteries listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in preparing this preservation plan. These are often the first questions that a potential funding source will ask. The lists on the preceding pages summarize recommendations that are specific to the individual cemeteries. Some of these projects can be readily accomplished by city staff, while others may require the advice of an engineer, landscape architect or stone conservator and the services of a contractor. Some are relatively inexpensive and others are very costly. (Note: because of the large number of potential projects and the many options available for implementing them, cost estimates were not prepared as part of this plan.) Probably the single most important step that the city could take would be to hire a conservator to conduct a one-day stone conservation workshop. This approach, which has been undertaken by many communities, has multiple benefits: conservators demonstrate basic stone preservation and maintenance techniques; city staff and volunteers gain confidence in applying these techniques; there is visible progress in improving some of the stones in a cemetery; there is greater public awareness of historic cemeteries; and this is a relatively inexpensive step with a high level of success. For all of these reasons it is also a project that is likely to appeal to potential funding sources.
The William Brimsmead table tomb at Spring Hill Cemetery, which commemorates Marlborough’s first minister, has broken into two pieces and in its current state is at risk for further damage. Because of Brimsmead’s importance to the community, this tomb should be a high priority for conservation.
Implementation Funds for cemetery preservation have always been difficult to obtain and are likely to be more so in the current economic climate. It is important to have multiple projects in mind that could appeal to a wide range of potential funding sources. State grant programs vary from year to year in the types of projects that are funded and the amount of money available. Below is a partial list of agencies that might fund cemetery projects. All of these agencies have websites with additional information: Department of Environmental Management, Historic Landscape Grant Program has funded the Historic Cemeteries Initiative and improvements to municipally-owned historic cemeteries. Department of Environmental Management, Mass Releaf funds urban and community forestry projects and has funded tree planting in cemeteries. Massachusetts Historical Commission, Preservation Projects Fund has recently received additional funding to be used on historic preservation projects around the state. Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency dedicated to the beliefs that culture - the arts, sciences and humanities - can build stronger, more vital communities. Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities is a humanities programming and grant making organization that receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and from private sources as well as the NEH. There are also various funding sources within the municipal budget, which include operational funds, capital project funds, grants, perpetual care accounts, and endowment accounts (such as that at Brigham cemetery administered by the Unitarian church). There are also various programs related to the graves of veterans that may be applicable. Regional and local foundations may exist that would be interested in cemetery projects. Other sources include local businesses, civic organizations such as the Daughter of the American Revolution, and ancestors (who may have some legal responsibility for monuments although this is rarely enforceable). While direct funding is generally the most desirable way to get things done, in kind services should not be overlooked. These might include volunteer time through programs such as the Boy Scouts or service clubs, or involuntary time such as community service programs.
Implementation BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RESOURCE LIST Association for Gravestone Studies, 278 Main Street, Suite 207, Greenfield, MA 01301. Phone: 413-7720836. www.gravestonestudies.org. Bigelow, Ella A. Historical Reminiscences of the Early Times in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Marlborough: Times Publishing Co., 1910. Forbes, Anne McCarthy. Marlborough Survey of Historic, Architectural and Cultural Resources, Narrative History. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Commission, 1995. Hudson, Charles. History of the Town of Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Boston: Press of T.R. Marvin and Son, 1862. National Trust for Historic Preservation. Preservation of Historic Burial Grounds. Washington, DC: Information Series No. 76, 1993. Rice, Franklin P. Marlborough, Massachusetts, Burial Ground Inscriptions: Old Common, Spring Hill and Brigham Cemeteries. Worcester, MA: published by the author, 1908. Stangstad, Lynette. A Graveyard Preservation Primer. Nashville Tennessee: American Association for State and Local History, 1988. Strangstad, Lynette. Preservation of Historic Burial Grounds. Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation Preservation Information Series, (no date). Walker-Kluesing Design Group. Preservation Guidelines for Municipally Owned Historic Burial Grounds and Cemeteries. Boston: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, 2000.
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