Forest Pond

November 26, 2013

Mount Auburn Cemetery has always been, in the most literal sense, a picturesque landscape.  This is all the more so demonstrated by the many works of art that depict the Cemetery’s scenic vistas and sacred places.  One spot in particular, Forest Pond (sometimes referred to as Narcissus Pond), was depicted over and over again by artists of the 19th century (there’s even a painting of it in the National Gallery!).  This area of low-lying land, bound between Beech and Willow Avenues, was a favorite place for Victorian visitors to take a midday stroll.  Like other principle bodies of water located within the Cemetery, Forest Pond was fed by “living springs” which could be seen discharging water while work was being done on the pond.  In 1859, the pond’s banks were edged with stone and grass, mirroring what was done to Consecration Dell in 1853.  As tastes continued to change throughout the following decades, it was decided in 1882 that the stone curbing along its banks should be removed to lend a more natural look to the area.  Interestingly, a drought in the following year provided the opportunity to dredge Forest Pond, in addition to Auburn and Halcyon Lakes.  The combined result was 500 loads of material that were removed from the bodies of water.

View of Forest Pond, attributed to Thomas Chambers. Oil on canvas, c. 1840s. Inspired after an engraving by R. Brandard of a painting by William Henry Bartlett.

View of Forest Pond, attributed to Thomas Chambers. Oil on canvas, c. 1840s. Inspired after an engraving by R. Brandard of a painting by William Henry Bartlett.

Despite the natural beauty of the area that surrounded Forest Pond, there were unfortunate drawbacks.  For years, visitors had complained about the swampy nature of the pond, as the stagnant water had become a breeding place for mosquitoes.  So, in 1915, efforts were made to begin filling in the pond and in 1917 the project was fully completed.  Though Forest Pond is no longer in existence, the topography of the surrounding area is well preserved and still conveys much of the charm that existed back in the 1800s.

View of Forest Pond, by M. H. Chandler. Chalk, charcoal and graphite on paper, 1852.

View of Forest Pond, by M. H. Chandler. Chalk, charcoal and graphite on paper, 1852.

Forest Pond, Mount Auburn. Hand colored stereo view, circa 1870-1880.

Forest Pond, Mount Auburn. Hand colored stereo view, circa 1870-1880.

 

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About the Author: Katie Robinson

Cemetery Development & Preservation Associate

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