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Mount Auburn Cemetery receives national planning designation

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  October 4, 2013 12:01 AM

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Mount Auburn Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark spanning 72 acres in both Watertown and Cambridge, was designated one of 10 Great Public Spaces for 2013 by the American Planning Association, the organization announced today.

The national award recognizes places with unique characteristics that have evolved from "years of thoughtful and deliberate planning" by residents and community leaders, the organization said in a statement.

The group singled out Mount Auburn for its pioneering role in cemetery design, enduring memorials, significant architecture, panoramic views, and public programs.

The garden cemetery was founded in 1831 as a response to overcrowded and poorly-maintained urban graveyards, the group said, and its design was a major inspiration for New York's Central Park.

“Founded for reasons both practical and aesthetic, Mount Auburn gave birth to the ‘rural’ landscaped cemetery movement,” said American Planning Association's CEO Paul Farmer. “Not only was it a model for other burial grounds, Mount Auburn served as inspiration for, among others, New York’s Central Park... This cemetery gracefully accommodates both the living and deceased.”

Now, the landmark sees some 200,000 visitors each year who come to take in the cemetery's gardens and architecture, visit loved ones' graves, bird-watch amongst the cemetery's 5,000 trees, or take part in various Mount Auburn educational programs, officials said.

The cemetery also hosts the tombstones of many notable figures, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dorothea Dix, and Henry Cabot Lodge, officials said.

“Mount Auburn has been a treasured part of our public space for generations, linking us with our forebears, our history and culture, and the wonders of nature," said state Representative Jonathan Hecht, who represents Watertown and West Cambridge, in the statement.

The group also bestowed the designation upon another Massachusetts location: the Norman B. Leventhal Park in Boston's Post Office Square.

Other public spaces recognized this year include:

  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Anchorage, AK
  • Grand Park, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Broadwalk in Florida’s Hollywood, Hollywood, FL
  • Forest Park, St. Louis, MO
  • Essex County Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ
  • Grand Central Terminal, New York City, NY
  • Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, Chattanooga, TN
  • Esther Short Park, Vancouver, WA

For more information, visit www.planning.org/greatplaces.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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