The Monument Cemetery of Philadelphia

(Late Pere La Chaise Cemetery.)

Commenced September 1st 1837.
Incorporated By The Legislature, March 19th, 1838.
Drawn by R; M. Sexton, Lehman & Duval, Lith.

John A, Elkinton M. D. Projector and original Proprietor.


Front of Monument Cemetery

Among the multitude of improvements that distinguish Philadelphia at the present moment, we know of nothing possessing more importance, or promising greater attraction than the Monument Cemetery, on Broad Street.


Cemetery Plan

Various indeed are the reasons why a city is an unsuitable place for a cemetery, and as the subject has not been acted upon by public authorities, we are indebted exclusively to the enterprise of a private individual, for the establishment of a rural Cemetery, on Broad Street. After having visited and carefully investigated the beneficial results of Mount Auburn Cemetery, near Boston. (Mass.) Dr. John A. Elkinton, of this City, in June, 1837, published a Prospectus of "The American Pere La Chaise" now Monument Cemetery ''fully satisfied that the undertaking would commend itself, both on account of its absolute importance to the public, and its relative value, as one of the embellishments of Philadelphia."

The Monument Cemetery of Philadelphia, is one that combines everything in a natural point of view, which could possibly be desired.

The location of the Cemetery is the same in reference to Philadelphia, as that of Pere La Chaise to Paris, while the ground, is exceedingly verdant, dry, and finely situated, being 100 feet above tide water.

Its distance from the center of the city, is about one mile and a half, upon Broad Street, in a northeasterly direction; sufficiently remote to prevent the apprehension that it may ever be encroached upon, by our growing population, while at the same time, it is at so convenient a proximity as to be easily reached by the pedestrian, without experiencing a sense of fatigue.

It is bounded on one side by Broad Street, on another by a lot of land, situated between it and Camac Street, on a third, by Turner's lane, and on the fourth, by a line drawn from the first to the last mentioned boundaries. It contains about 20 acres of land, and is situated upon an eminence which overlooks the city and liberties. The center of the lot is the highest part of it, and the ascent to the center is gradual, from each of the four sides. The entrances are two one on Broad Street, the other on Lane. Four avenues, each 50 feet wide, lead to a square in the center, which square is bounded by an avenue on each side, of the same width. The lots are arranged in rectangular rows, the rows divided by avenues, 20 feet in width. The avenues between the lots are 5 feet in width. The lots are 10 by 12 feet in size.

The square in the centre is called "Monument Square," and contains ten hundred private lots, and a space for a Monument to Washington, and La Fayette.

The whole 20 acres contain Four Thousand Two Hundred And Eighty-Three Lots, four thousands of which belong to private owners, and the balance of the Lots is the property of the Corporation, and they are "to be disposed of by the Managers, and the proceeds to be applied to the general improvement of the Cemetery."

A Deed in fee is given to every owner, the same as for any other real estate, on payment of the purchase money for the lot.

Of the manner in which it has been laid out, it is enough to say, that it is done in a way that must add embellishments to a situation, which has been rendered altogether lovely, by the hands of nature. The walks and alleys intersect each other at right angles, and the design is to line them with trees, shrubbery, and flowers. Statues of Washington and La Fayette, are to be raised, in a reserved plot, that will be highly ornamented, and become a kind of focus to the whole enclosure. The other suitable buildings, such as a chapel, &c. have all been properly taken into the account, it being the design of the projector, to devote it to the purpose of burial ceremonials. The idea is undoubtedly, a good one, and as the house is very spacious, and conveniently arranged, a large funeral procession can enter, in rainy weather, during the performance of obsequies.

Not far from the Chapel, and between the east and west gates, about an acre of ground is handsomely laid out, for ornaments. Within the periphery of the circle, which encloses the Monument, a space is allotted as a carriage way, so that persons riding may enter at the east gate on Broad Street, pass along the main avenue to the Chapel, drive around the Monument, and without incommoding foot passengers, pass out at the west gate, on Turner's Lane. The shade and solitude of the place is charming.

These, however, we do not consider the only advantages possessed by the site selected. The soil, which is not the least important, among many considerations, is of the very best character for the purposes of interment, being beyond the tenacious clay of the city, the upper stratum of earth, ii a mixture of loam and sand, that lies from two to four feet thick after this, a substratum is found, composed entirely of a fine Red Gravel, than which no ground, certainly, could be more suitable for graves. Through such a soil the water percolates almost as rapidly as through a sieve, and it must therefore, always be as dry as could ever be desired. It is also easily excavated, and tombs may be made with the greatest facility; for it is entirely free from the rocks and large stones, which in many situations the spade of the sexton is liable to encounter. From this fact, it will at once be perceived, with how little difficulty, vaults may be constructed, at the least possible expense, by those who may wish to have family tombs, in which the remains may be visited by disconsolate friends. In conjunction with all these advantages of locality, it is situated upon an eminence, attained by a rise, scarcely perceptible, that completely overlooks the city, and all the country around, and affords to the eye, a prospect, whichever way it stretches, at once the most picturesque and beautiful.

The plan of the Monument Cemetery, contemplates improvements, of the most extensive kind, in which, the skill of the architect, and taste of the gardener are equally called into requisition. Trees wave their shady branches, and flowers scatter their richest fragrance over the whole scene. The weeding willow, and the dark cypress mourn in unison, over the graves around; and the modest blossoms that expand and perish forever, remind man, that like them, he is passing away. The ostentatious and silent lessons of mortality are taught, by everything that meets the eye. The winds sigh a requiem among the foliage of the trees, while the birds singing in their branches, render adoration and praise, to the great disposer of all events, the Supreme Arbiter of Life and Death.

We, cannot but believe, that this cemetery will soon be one of the choice spots, in the vicinity of our city, to which the stranger will direct his steps, with as much eagerness, as to the famous Pere La Chaise of Paris, or the wonderful Scutari, near Constantinople.

Here, surely, is a place where Friendship may visit, with a righteous tribute, without the fear of being disturbed. Here may bloom, in meekness, the flowers planted by affection, and watered by the tears of memory. Here may we commune with the departed,' and moralize profitably, upon the uncertainty of life; and here, while we look with decent curiosity, upon the storied monuments of those who have gone before us, to an ''Untried Being," may we calmly anticipate the period, when we shall ourselves, lie down in death, by the side of those, we have loved; and when others will stand musing over our graves, and in like manner, perform those kind and gentle offices for US, which are no less a panegyric upon the dead than the living.

In the bustle and turmoil of the world while the glittering pageantry and splendor of wealth so dazzle the eyes, that everything else, is almost entirely overlooked the resting place for the body, after "life's fitful fever" is over, has been sadly forgotten. It was enough if beauty and ornaments decorated the dwellings of the Living the Dead might repose in "cold obstruction's apathy," amid the crowded and busy haunts of men, though still in a more utter desolation than if surrounded only by the temples of nature, the silence of which, was never interrupted, except by the melancholy whispers of the sighing wind.

In those cities in which a graveyard is crowded into nearly every corner where you walk as it were, in the midst of the tombs, and where there is as much the appearance of a CITY OF THE DEAD, as a congregation of the Living the pious affection of friends becomes chilled by such unsightly familiarity with the grave, and the holy feelings, and solemn thoughts that such objects are calculated to inspire, are seldom experienced after the first gush of grief has subsided.

The primitive Christians, warmed with a fervent zeal for everything in which the affections were at all concerned, so far from leaving the last sad remains of mortality to molder, among the throngs of men, regarded it as almost a religious duty, to convey them to a quiet receptacle in the country where earth could mingle with its mother earth, free from the danger of being disturbed by the morbid hands, that would deprive the dead of a few feet of, ground, that are allotted to all or by the crowds of others, who had ended the troubled dream of their existence, and had gone to claim their share of man's last inheritance.

Of the internal improvements of the Cemetery, the following may be enumerated, as the most striking and important: as set forth in the Annual report:

1st All the main avenues have been excavated and graveled, from the entrance on Broad Street, to the outlet on Turner's Lane; the four avenues leading to, and round the Monument circle, in the East avenue, running through section "A,'' and "E" are also excavated and graveled; as also, Middle avenue, running South, from Washington avenue, through section "D."

From the peculiar position of the ground in Monument Cemetery, there is no part which admits of standing water, but in time of rain, there is a confluence of the waters in section "C" and "D" a much larger accumulation, of which takes place in the latter section, owing to a natural decent immediately below the Cemetery, on the adjoining property. On this account the ten feet avenue, leading from the Monument through section "D'' has been paved with bricks to prevent its being gullied by heavy rains.

About 200 ornamental trees have also been planted along the smaller avenues, and in other situations, in addition to the number planted the last year.

2nd A new fence has been erected on Broad Street front, with an iron gate and gateway, for carriages, supported by granite columns also, a good and substantial fence around the whole enclosure.

The improvement, widening and embellishment of Broad Street, as contemplated by a late law, will render it necessary to remove the front fence from its present situation, thirty-one feet six inches back, to the ultimate width of Broad Street; but this will not interfere with any of the private burial lots, as all these improvements were anticipated and provided for in the original plan of the Cemetery.

3rd Stabling and sheds have been erected, in the angle at the northeast corner of Franklin and Rush avenues, where carriages can stop in time of storm, or during funeral obsequies.

The Chapel has also been furnished with seats, benches, and other conveniences, for the accommodation of stockholders and members, and every arrangement made, for funeral service, or religious exercises, at all times.

4th Exchanges have been effected with all the owners of lots around the Chapel, for lots belonging to the Corporation, in section "A" The advantages to the Company by this arrangement, were particularly alluded to, in the last annual Report; and it is proper on this occasion, to renew our acknowledgments, to the gentlemen through whose kindness it was accomplished, and tender them the thanks of the members.

5th The space for the Monument in the circle, has been raised several feet high, by large quantities of earth placed there for that purpose, and a brick gutter laid around it.

In addition to the foregoing acts of the Company, there have been erected by individuals:

25 private vaults
10 private tombs and Monuments
2 obelisks; and several others are already under contract, besides
10 lots, tastefully enclosed, with ornamental railing and posts,
Twenty-Seven with post and chain, and twelve with posts only.

The practice of improving and decorating burial lots with some mementos of affection congenial to our natures, is indicative of the refinement of the age and is strongly recommended to every lot holder, to convert the same into a little garden spot; the general effect of which, would be delightful in the extreme, and afford the most rational gratification to every beholder.

Around a dear belov'd one's grave,
May fragrant crocus ever wave;
And Spring eternal, nurse the flowers
With zephyrs bland, and genial showers.
Light lay the green enameled turf
That hides the mortal wreck of worth.

Shrubbery, evergreens and towers in abundance, of every variety, to adorn and decorate the graves of departed relatives and friends, can be obtained throughout the year, in the garden immediately adjoining the Cemetery."

Managers

1. George W. Tryon, 147 Vine Street, President.
2. Dr. John A. Elkinton, Fifth Street, near Green.
3. Nathan R. Potts, No. 304, North Sixth Street.
4. Dr. George H. Burgin, No. 175, South Fifth St.
5. Joseph Plankinton, County Commis. State house.
6. Robert C. Martin, No. 11, North Juniper Street.
7. Peter A. Keyser, No. 35, Callowhill Street:
8. Joseph Johns, No. 147, Marshall Street.
9. Thomas Snowden, No. 15, North Fifth Street.
10. Benjamin Matthias, No. 353, North Sixth St.
11. Dr. Mahlon M. Levis, No. 236, North Sixth St.
12. John S. Cash, Washington, above Tenth Street.
13. William H. Love. 348, North Sixth St. above Green.
14. William B. Geyer, 74, Lombard Street.
15. William Vogdes, 86} North Ninth Street.

The number of Interments in Monument Cemetery, up to June 1839 is 84.

History of Philadelphia


Source: A History of Philadelphia: With a Notice of Villages, in the Vicinity, Printed and published by Daniel Bowen, 1839


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