The world rolls round,–mistrust it not,–
Befalls again when once befell;
All things return, both sphere and mote,
And I shall hear my bluebird’s note,
And dream the dream of Auburn dell.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, May-Day
Of all the many spots within Mount Auburn, Consecration Dell has a special allure. Here, 1,600 feet from the Cemetery’s entrance, you can imagine history taking place, find solace from the cares of the world in a quiet corner of nature, or marvel at the beauty of a migrant bird.
Hidden behind the steep slopes that enclose it, the Dell is a woodland oasis. This 4.2-acre natural valley with a small vernal pool in its center is now managed to reflect the Cemetery’s earliest decades. The Dell sits in striking contrast the Cemetery’s otherwise manicured landscape, providing important wildlife habitat to resident and migratory wildlife. It is a respite for human visitors as well. The topography envelopes you as you feel a physical separation from the city beyond the Cemetery’s walls; on a warm summer day it is a shaded sanctuary. This small area embodies all that is magical, rejuvenating and special about Mount Auburn Cemetery.
The history of the Dell is inextricably linked with the history of the entire Cemetery, as it was within this natural amphitheater that the activities to formally consecrate Mount Auburn occurred on September 24th in 1831. The area has since been known as Consecration Dell because of its important role in the Cemetery’s earliest history. As with other areas of the Cemetery’s landscape, changing ideas about landscape design and shifting maintenance practices have altered the look of this area over time. In 1993, the Cemetery began an ambitious project to restore Consecration Dell to a natural woodland and today, it embodies the naturalistic qualities that made the entire landscape so prized in Mount Auburn’s earliest decades.
Consecration Dell is defined by the dominance of woodland plants native to the New England region. The shade-tolerant plants that thrive in soil conditions found planted throughout this area have been carefully selected to prevent soil erosion and provide food and shelter for wildlife.
The Dell is a year-round home to spotted salamanders and resident owls as provides more temporary shelter to migratory warblers and other creatures. The recent work to improve this area have created additional sources of food, shelter and nesting materials for a variety of species, increasing the Dell’s value as a significant habitat.
Much time and energy has been devoted to re-creating the original woodland character of the Dell. We encourage you to visit the Dell, to see what visitors would have seen 175 years ago. It is a beautiful and picturesque area, indeed the heart of Mount Auburn, and can be enjoyed in any season of the year.
Whether you arrive in early spring as Emerson did or you come in the fall at the time when the original consecration ceremony was held, the Dell offers a place of quiet tranquility. The bustle of the world outside will drop away and you can find the comfort and solace of nature as the founders of Mount Auburn intended.