In 1831, Mt. Auburn Cemetery opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the first garden cemetery to open in the country and represented a new attitude about burying the dead. These cemeteries were designed spaces, with pathways and avenues, and were landscaped to have the look and feel of a public park.
In Victorian Cemetery Art, author Edmund V. Gillon Jr. writes “The large amounts of space in the Victorian cemetery were to revolutionize cemetery art, and permit the use of sculpture in a way that crowded churchyard had never allowed. Sepulchral sculpture, with it prone effigies and kneeling weepers, had flowered in the past, but only for the rich and powerful.” The opening of Mt. Auburn was the dawning of the rural cemetery movement–the concept of the cemetery as a landscaped space.
The Forest Lawn Cemetery at Buffalo, New York, opened in 1849. The sprawling 269-acre cemetery features walkways, avenues, and lakes that are in keeping with the garden designs for cemeteries of the time period. Mirror Lake features a statue by artist Laurence Rumsey Goodyear of the Three Graces, the goddesses of charm, beauty, and creativity from Greek Mythology.
Cities across America began to open garden cemeteries in their communities—Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and Forest Lawn Cemetery at Buffalo, New York—to name just a few.