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Old November 4th, 2007, 05:59 PM   #1
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Cemeteries for Fun?

Cemeteries not just for the dead, say architects

LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Cemeteries should not just be for the dead but could become places of relaxation and exploration, a British architects' lobby group said on Wednesday.

CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, said cemeteries were originally intended as public open spaces and, in some towns and cities, cemeteries account for up to half of the green open spaces.

"Cemeteries should not be considered solely as resting places for the dead, they should be designed with the living in mind too," said CABE director Sarah Gaventa.

"The great Victorian cemeteries were designed and maintained as beautiful public parks for the enjoyment of all. Every local authority should have them in their green space strategy and ensure that their full value is realised.".

Urban planners should build visitor facilities and walks in cemeteries to encourage people to explore and take exercise.

"With proper care, nature can flourish, making cemeteries more interesting and colourful places," CABE said in a statement in its Web site. There are an estimated 12,000 to 20,000 churchyards, cemeteries and burial grounds in Britain.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 06:12 PM   #2
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I don't think cemeteries should be used for cafes or anything like that. They are like parks, I just hope that demand for space doesn't cause any commercial development in cemeteries.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 10:16 AM   #3
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Not exactly a recreational use but an interesting resource for local history :

Gravestone words tells a tale
November 04, 2007
Leslie Scrivener
Toronto Star

At first glance, the cluster of men and women digging around the tombstones in St. James Cemetery could be grave robbers. On a gloomy Saturday morning, when no other life stirs, one of them pokes the earth with a metal probe while others are on their knees, brushing away dirt and mulch to expose a fallen, long-forgotten stone.

They are searching for buried treasure of a kind: The hidden, nearly lost history that's recorded on Toronto's gravestones.

This is a crew of cemetery transcribers, careful as accountants – which turns out to be the weekday trade of some of them. They are volunteers this morning on the Ontario Genealogical Society's ambitious project to record all of the province's 10 million tombstones.

It can be life-consuming work. David Reed, a retired business analyst, figures he spent 10 years as part of a team transcribing stones at the Toronto Necropolis on Winchester St. This is his sixth year working in St. James Cemetery on Parliament St.

"There's lot of genealogical information on tombstones," says Jack Tyson, the cemetery-transcription boss for the Toronto branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. A retired business teacher and former vice-principal at Harbord Collegiate, he's been working at this for more than 20 years. "They give relationships – husband, son, daughter, sometimes grandparents, where they were born or where they came from, where they died, sometimes stories about what happened to them. That's genealogical information we want to preserve and isn't available anywhere other than on a stone."

But occasionally the transcribers encounter not just facts but also richer evocations of the past. "Sometimes names keep recurring," says Marjorie Stuart, co-author of a booklet called "Solving Cemetery Problems," written for the Ontario Genealogical Society. "You realize these people were founders and developers of the community. They ran the local hardware store or streets were named for them. You get a feel for them. You begin to do the transcribing by rote, and then you see a whole bunch of children who died and it touches you.

"Being genealogists and family historians, we're interested in people. The stones leave a message behind, a clue to pick up on."

Transcriber Jane MacNamara, a graphic designer, has been so intrigued by some gravestone inscriptions – an occupation, or cause of death – that she's gone home to try and learn more from newspaper archives. One person she researched was Dr. Stocks Hammond, the delicately constituted St. James Cathedral choirmaster who died in 1897, of pleurisy complicated by bronchitis and nervous dyspepsia. MacNamara learned that when a new choirmaster was appointed a week after his death, nearly the full corps of choir members – 70 to 80 people – walked out in protest.

Another stone led MacNamara to research an event she'd never heard of – the Salisbury Railway Disaster, which took the life of Charles Ashworth Pipon in 1906. He worked for a steamship company and was returning to Britain for a family visit. When he disembarked at Plymouth he boarded a train – there were several lines offering fast service to London– when, she says, there was a terrible crash, which took the lives of dozens, including three Canadians. He left behind his wife and three children under 12.

One of the services of the Ontario Genealogical Society is to answer inquiries from around the world – the Toronto branch has received 100 so far this year – about family history. Ann Rexe, a volunteer for the society, responds to the inquiries, which sometimes lead her to a cemetery. All deaths in the province were supposed to be registered in Ontario and certificates issued after 1869. "But lots of people failed to register births, deaths or marriages long after they were required to do it," says Rexe, a retired city planner. And until all the cemeteries have been transcribed, the tombstones are the gold standard for dates of birth and death, which are the basis for further research.

Transcribers record every word on a gravestone. Peering at a knocked-down stone they'd dug up in St. James, accountant Bonnie Bell took notes while Ron Junkin, a retired accountant, first scrubbed the muddy surface with a brush, then rubbed it with white school chalk (the contrast makes the old inscriptions more legible; on sunny days mirrors are used to reflect light on the stone). While names and dates were clear, other words were not, and the group assembled to try to piece together disconnected phrases. "Does that say respected something in life?" asked Sue de Groot, a professional genealogist. "Does that say `happy'?"

Across the province, the job is nearly done, with about 95 per cent of inscriptions recorded. (The society is not transcribing Toronto's Jewish cemeteries, where the inscriptions may also be in Hebrew.) But since the largest cemeteries in Ontario are in Toronto, most of the work left to be done is here – 68 out of the city's 120 cemeteries have yet to be done. The task is daunting: about 200,000 are buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the second largest in Canada – which the transcribers have barely touched – while some 89,000 are buried in St. James, which they're about halfway through. Not all burials have gravestones, however. With some monuments marking the deaths of several people, usually members of the same family, and some graves with no stone, Tyson estimates there are only 20 or 30 gravestones for every 100 burials.

There is some urgency to the work. The inscriptions on stones fade from exposure to natural elements and acid rain. Some monuments topple to the earth and are forgotten. As churches fall into disuse and close, especially in rural Ontario, there's often no record that cemeteries once existed there. They may be hidden in farmer's fields or at concession road corners. "They disappear from collective memory," says Stuart. "Sometimes we think we will be the last ones to read them."

Even in Toronto, there's nothing left to recall 100-year-old Chalmers Presbyterian Cemetery, once on the northeast corner of St. Clair Ave. E. at Pharmacy Ave. It closed in 1951, and its graves and markers moved to Pine Hills Cemetery on Birchmount Rd. the following year.

Stuart, a homemaker and active volunteer, is looking forward to when the St. James transcribers – who are skilled at lifting words from seemingly illegible stones – get to a plot where one of her husband's ancestors is buried. "There's an in-ground stone, flat, about 18 by 24 inches ... It's white and beautifully faded and says, `John Purdy, native of ... I'd dearly love to know where he came from, because it may give me a clue to go there and find the rest of the family."
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Old November 5th, 2007, 11:12 AM   #4
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Monday March 28, 2005
Final resting place

Some Chinese elders refuse to talk about dying, much less visit grave sites. But those who are not superstitious would go to the extent of choosing and buying their burial plots and planning the design of their tombs. At the very least, they get to see how their final resting place would look like.

Some wealthy families spend a fortune – up to a few million ringgit – to build a grand tomb. They believe that burial plots with good feng shui are important as they affect the fortunes of their descendants. And choice plots are usually on higher ground.

Families with money spare no expense on the tombs as they feel it is their duty to appease and honour their ancestors. They see it as a gesture of filial piety to provide the best for their loved ones.

At 91, Datuk Sim Mow Yu seems to have accepted the fact that one does not live forever. Sim, a publisher, Chinese educationist and accomplished calligrapher, has even prepared a resting place for himself next to his late wife, at the Nirvana Memorial Park in Semenyih, Selangor.

The nine dragon wall forms the back wall of this grand tomb in Nilai Memorial Park.

The green granite tombstones look spanking new in their well-landscaped surroundings. But what is eye-catching is the beautiful calligraphy on the tombstones and walls flanking the grave site.

“The original writings are scanned onto the granite slabs and engraved by workmen. Datuk Sim, who was born in Fukien, China, wrote all the calligraphy on the tombstones, including the tombstone of his wife, Chan Guat Ai, who passed away last May,” says Isaac Chong, personal assistant to the group managing director of NV Multi Corporation Bhd, which manages Nirvana Memorial Park.

Work on the tombs was completed only early this year.

“Datuk Sim tells of his motto in life: perseverance, manners, righteousness, integrity, faithfulness, justice and hard work. He also holds steadfastly to the principle that life is a struggle and one of rendering service to others,” says Chong.

Ong Seng Huat

He adds that these days, it is quite common for the well-to-do Chinese to buy a plot of land and prepare their tombstones before their deaths. Their names would be engraved in red to indicate that they are still alive.

Another noteworthy tomb is that of Lim Fong Seng, former chairman of the Federation of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and former chairman of the Federation of Chinese Schools Association.

Rather than the usual upright tombstone, Lim’s head stone rests in a slanted position on some steps in front of his tomb and that of his late wife. A pair of white ceramic angels stand guard on top of the slanted head stone. A landscaped path surrounded by an immaculately kept garden, leads to Lim’s final resting place.

Some tombs have plants or flowering shrubs on them as the family members believe that these can help ensure that the family wealth is retained.

At the Nirvana Memorial Park, there are three graves which are surrounded by a shallow pool of water. A park worker explained that this is done for feng shui purposes. Rainwater collects around the grave before it is drained off.

“Some believe that storage of water is symbolic of storing wealth,” says the worker.

In Peace Garden, there are artistic head stones with contemporary designs. The tombs have no mounds typical of Chinese tombs, but are flat and turfed. Each plot has a border of shrubs to demarcate its boundary. The garden is beautifully landscaped with palm trees for added tranquillity.

This sang kee is erected to promote longevity and prosperity among the living.

At the Nilai Memorial Park in Negri Sembilan, there is an imposing million ringgit tomb with a rectangular back wall etched with nine dragons – the handiwork of craftsmen from China.

“It belongs to a respected Chinese entrepreneur who meticulously planned his tomb before his death. He even detailed the route that his hearse would pass and how the death rituals should be conducted. A few months after his tomb was ready, he passed away,” says Monica Chew, sales manager of the park.

In contrast to the sombre grey, white and blue colour themes of most graves, the tomb of a Chinese publisher in Nilai Memorial Park stands out with its splashes of colour on decorative walls.

As one ascends the staircase leading to the tomb, the boundary walls feature large pink lilies with green leaves. However, the major attraction is the main back wall illustrated with 24 stories of filial piety. Each story has an illustrated panel and all 24 panels are arranged to form a mural.

Another unique tomb belongs to that of a Tan Sri. It is marked by an upright marble wall with a hollowed-out cross. The cross is laid down on a grassy patch nearby. A white granite border gives the tomb its finishing touch. A stone’s throw away lies the tomb of the Tan Sri’s son.

Chew says: “The garden to this two-tiered tomb area is landscaped with a winding path. It is to remind the deceased’s descendants that he had gone a long way in life and experienced a lot of ups and downs.”

At both memorial parks, there are a few empty “tombs” which have been erected for feng shui purposes.

Known traditionally as sang kee (meaning “base of living”) these “tombs” are built to enhance one’s luck or promote good health and longevity, says Ong Seng Huat, chief executive director of Xiao En Cultural Endowment, a charity organisation set up by the Xiao En Group which operates Nilai Memorial Park.

One such “tomb” resembles the shell of a tortoise. Ong says: “Only the hair, nails or sample of blood of a living person are buried in this plot.”

Another sang kee has a tombstone with the Chinese character sau (meaning longevity) written on it, evidently as a wish for long life.

Yet another tortoise-shaped tomb, Ong says, is regarded as an “unlucky” tomb as it is sealed (wholly cemented). Traditionally, the Chinese do not seal the tomb to allow grass to grow on the mound of earth that marks the grave site.

Tombs of contemporary designs at Nirvana Memorial Park. This area is planted with palm trees for shade. There are no mounds typical of Chinese graveyards but flat turfed burial plots.

A housewife in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, who declined to be named says: “My father’s tomb is sealed and the family cannot visit his grave. This is to avoid bad luck. We can only worship his ancestral tablet at home. However, we can engage workers to make offerings and burn incense during Qing Ming.”

In her father’s case, the day, month and year of his birth were all inauspicious, so he was deemed unlucky and hence the taboo on visiting his grave.

Keng Choo, planning and design director of Nilai Memorial Park, says that once tombs are completed, renovation works are not encouraged.

“After the burial of their family member, if the descendants are safe and happy, the Chinese do not want to disturb the tombs (with unnecessary renovation),” he says.

“However, if the descendants have health problems and suffer bad luck after burying their elders, they would seek the help of a geomancer. Work may then be carried out, including relocating the tomb to a site with good feng shui.”

A tastefully designed grave in Nirvana Memorial Park in Semenyih.

Chew of Nilai Memorial Park tells of a filial son who occasionally visits his father’s grave and has breakfast at a sheltered pavilion equipped with a granite table and seats. Who knows, the young man could be pouring out his worldly problems to his father or just spending a quiet time of reflection.

“Indeed, these days a memorial park is no longer a dreaded place to visit for the living. It is beautifully landscaped and relatives may visit the graves whenever they like,” adds Chew.

Source: Originally published in The Star.
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Old November 6th, 2007, 07:16 PM   #5
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There's some fantastic monumental architecture in cemetaries around the world - many of them are well worth a visit. Some of them have famous people buried there too. Apparently, in Roman times, people used to have picnics in their local graveyards.

In my country, young people often use them for other recreational activities at night. Not something I would recommend!
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Old November 6th, 2007, 11:44 PM   #6
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Crown Hill here in Indy is used for hiking, I know that much. It has a few historic chapels, and is basically a mass bubble of woodland in the central city(3rd largest cemetery in the country). It has quiet a bit of victorian monuments(though sadly many are fading away).
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Old November 7th, 2007, 09:19 AM   #7
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sick fu*ks, how do you turn a graveyard into a place of relaxation?

this world's going to hell...i just hope i dont see it
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Old November 7th, 2007, 10:26 AM   #8
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this is a cemetery

Originally Posted by Dvorak View Post

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Old November 9th, 2007, 08:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by vari karin View Post
sick fu*ks, how do you turn a graveyard into a place of relaxation?

this world's going to hell...i just hope i dont see it
I looked it up, in the 19th century, cemeteries were used for parks. It doesn't mean people would skateboard in them, but they used them for strolls, walking their dogs, having lunches, etc. Now if you start putting in basketball courts, and restruants then there is an issue.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 05:45 AM   #10
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i agree... skateboarding=the root of all evil
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Old December 5th, 2007, 12:24 AM   #11
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Cemetaries should be quiet places where people can remember their lost ones. Even so these places aren't inadequate for relaxing if you respect the mourners, like taking a walk, enjoying the flowers and greens... Cemetaries after midnight have a very special atmospere, btw.
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Old April 26th, 2011, 09:10 PM   #12
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Historic Atlanta cemetery celebrates 125 years
4:32 PM, Apr 17, 2011

ATLANTA -- It is one of Atlanta's oldest African-American cemeteries, founded by former slaves in the years immediately following the Civil War.

Inside the gates of South-View Cemetery, you find more than a final resting place. You step into a piece of history.

The number of occupants tops 70,000. Some of them you'll know by name, like Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., or "Daddy King." Others by deed, like Charles Westmoreland, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

As cemetery president, Winifred Watts Hemphill knows the grounds well.

"There are doctors, lawyers and many, many [war] veterans here," she said, surveying the headstones. "Not only the people who've made a name for themselves, but also the unsung heroes."

But theirs are not the only stories; South-View has a strong history of its own. It was founded in 1886 by former slaves - six men who wanted a more dignified burial for African-Americans. They took their requests to the head of a local cemetery, only to be met with rejection.

"If you have all these demands, you want to come in the front gates, you don't want to be buried in the swamps; you need to start your own cemetery," Hemphill recounted. "And so they did."

The cemetery has now climbed to more than four times its original size, spanning 100 acres. The original graves, now crumbled and aging, still stand.

Unlike many historic cemeteries, South-View remains active, holding hundreds of funerals each year. Families around the world have ties to the grounds, including Hemphill. Her great-grandfather Albert Watts is one of South-View's six founders.

"I feel a very close connection to the cemetery because of that," Hemphill said. "I know that each area is a place where someone's family is buried, just like mine are buried here."

As she looks ahead to the next 100 years, her challenge is to mix the old and the new, honoring the past while building for the future.

"It's not just a museum, although it has a museum component," she said. "It's a place where people come every day."

South-View celebrated its 125th anniversary on Sunday with the unveiling of a new cell-phone guided tour, where visitors can simply dial a phone number to get information about each of the tour stops. Former Atlanta city council president Lisa Borders spoke at the celebration ceremony, along with Kenneth Morris, a descendent of Frederick Douglass.
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Old April 26th, 2011, 11:33 PM   #13
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someone really should visit Helsinki's cemetery, haunting art nouveau and modernism like nowhere else, beats the hell out of Pere LaChaise and an architectural dream.


For Gothic overgrown cemeteries of course, Highgate in London - Nunhead's is also quite cool and more overgrown.

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Old April 27th, 2011, 12:14 AM   #14
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For Jugenstil, ie art noveau, the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna is also good choice. Its also a nice place for those looking for graves of famous artists.

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Old April 27th, 2011, 01:17 AM   #15
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Check out Krakow Rakowiecki for artistic masterpieces from all eras although the most impressive and big in Poland is Powazki cemetary, Christian and Jewish sections are larger than Pere Lachaise. In terms of beauty, that might be subjective. I have been to Pere Lachasie and was amazed.


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Old April 27th, 2011, 10:18 PM   #16
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Why shouldn't a cemetery be for relaxing? It is not like you are disrupting the residents, and if they were still alive I am sure they would want people to have fun instead of being scared.
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Old May 9th, 2011, 09:14 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Taller, Better View Post
Why shouldn't a cemetery be for relaxing?
Roman cemeteries were exactly that. They would even provide benches for people to sit on, as here in Pompeii -

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