Monday, June 21, 2010

Mount Albion Cemetery, Orleans County, NY

Mount Albion Cemetery, 45 minutes west of Rochester (google map), is similar to Rochester's Mt. Hope cemetery in layout, history, and character. Both are prototypical 19th century rural cemeteries serving triplicate roles as cemetery, park, and botanical garden. Both were originally built on hilly, glacier-shaped terrain, and were later expanded to surrounding fields when burial plots became scarce. Both are highly regarded examples of the picturesque architectural movement. However, Mount Albion distinguishes itself from its more cosmopolitan neighbor cemetery in a number of ways.

While it's hard to believe while exploring the place, Mt. Albion is significantly smaller than Mt. Hope, with about 18,000 "tenants" (compared to Mt. Hope's 300,000) residing on 77 acres (Mt. Hope: 196 acres). This more manageable size may account for why Mt. Albion appears to be more nicely maintained than Mt. Hope: there were fewer neglected gravestones or crumbling monuments; lawns and grasses cut just well enough to preserve the aesthetic balance between architecture and nature.

The majority of the Mt. Albion cemetery sits on a hill (well, more technically a "drumlin"), with snaking roads winding through rising, terraced terrain upon which gravestones sit, interspersed by stately trees and monuments. Sitting below the hills are well-manicured fields with a still-growing number of more recent graves. In times past, families would often picnic in the open fields of the cemetery and then enjoy the trees, flowers, and landscape of the hillier areas. At the top of the hill stands the most striking structure in the cemetery.

The 135 year old Soldiers and Sailors Monument sits at the highest point in the cemetery, a 68 foot tall tower dedicated "in memory of the men who fell in defense of the union." The tower, made - like much in the cemetery - from Medina-quarried sandstone, is intubated by a spiral staircase which will take adventurous souls to an observation deck, from whence they can see the shores of Lake Ontario nine miles away, and a few miles of water beyond that.


Reaching nearly as high as the tower are many trees, ranging in variety from the common (Maple, Ash, etc), to the uncommon (a Butternut tree, Yucca plants). Many are simply towering in size...

...while others are ethereal and creepy...

... and yet some others are just surprising...

Often, they blend in marvelously with the gravestones and landscape..

But sometimes, gravestone and tree do battle. In the case of this nearly two hundred year old gravestone, time was on the tree's side. Over decades, its roots constricted around the gravestone and broke off the bottom corner.

In the fields also are numerous grave sections dedicated to men and women of the armed services. An antique canon sits in the area dedicated to Civil War veterans.

While you won't find in Mt. Albion the sheer star power of Mt. Hope - there are no Frederick Douglass's or Susan B. Anthony's here - there are some recognizable names. One small grave from the famous Wadsworth family can be found on the outskirts of the cemetery. In addition, many graves and monuments, and a fountain have been added to to the cemetery which are dedicated to the "Ingersoll" family. While I have not yet determined the story behind this family, it may be related to the Ingersoll Rand company, sellers of industrial equipment, or Robert Ingersoll, the famous 19th century freethinker.

More pictures...

The cemetery is open every day from 6:00 AM until 8:00 PM.


Mark Harwood said...

Great pics .... if you have a chance read Helene Hanff's Apple of my Eye, a tribute to New York which she wrote in the late 1970s while travelling around the city. Helene is a great writer. I have never visited the States, staying mainly in Europe, but hope to one day and primarily because Helene lead me to Love New York through her book, best, Mark

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