The Nature Plays

March 22, 2019

Tickets are on sale now for The Nature Plays, the first of two series of site-specific plays created by the Cemetery’s first Playwright Artist-in-Residence, Patrick Gabridge. Gabridge’s Mount Auburn Plays will be presented in two sets of 5 unique plays each: The Nature Plays premiere June 1-9, 2019, highlighting stories inspired by the rich natural environment of Mount Auburn with topics such as spotted salamanders in Consecration Dell, birders at Auburn Lake, and historic debates between naturalists who are buried at the Cemetery. Audiences will experience the performances at various spots across the grounds, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the natural world. Each performance will be followed by a discussion.  

All plays will be fully staged with professional actors on the Cemetery grounds. Directed by Courtney O’Connor. Plays will run rain or shine, runtime is approximately 75 minutes and will include walking within the Cemetery on paved and unpaved surfaces; total walking distance approx. 1 mile.

Seating is limited, registration required. To purchase tickets, please select the date and time you wish to attend:

Saturday, June 1, 1 pm
Saturday, June 1, 5 pm
Sunday, June 2, 1 pm
Sunday, June 2, 5 pm
Saturday, June 8, 1 pm
Saturday, June 8, 5 pm
Sunday, June 9, 1 pm
Sunday, June 9, 5 pm

About Patrick Gabridge, Playwright:

Playwright Patrick Gabridge is an award-winning writer of historical and contemporary stage plays, novels, audio plays, and screenplays. His short plays have been produced more 1,000 times in theaters and schools in 14 different countries around the world and appear in various anthologies. His recent site-specific works include Blood on the Snow and Cato & Dolly for The Bostonian Society/Old State House, and Both/And: A Quantum Physics Play for the MIT Museum. In 2018 Gabridge launched Plays In Place, a new company that works in partnership with museums, historic sites, and other cultural institutions to develop and produce site-specific theatrical plays and presentations to help engage, entertain, and enlighten visitors in new and vibrant ways. Gabridge’s Mount Auburn plays will be presented in partnership with Plays in Place as one of the company’s inaugural projects.

Story Chapel Exterior Masonry Repairs

February 20, 2019

Work will begin in March on a two-year exterior masonry repair project at Story Chapel.  The project will include rebuilding many of the building’s stone buttresses, extensive repairs to the stonework on the upper portion of the chapel’s tower, and 100% repointing of the exterior masonry joints.  Ongoing moisture issues related to deterioration of the stonework necessitate replacement of a significant amount of the stone at the buttresses and throughout the building.  The original red sandstone quarried in Potsdam, New York, has been susceptible to splitting along bedding planes, opening up gaps in the stone and contributing to failed masonry joints through which water can penetrate.  The Potsdam sandstone is no longer quarried, so identifying a replacement of stone has been a challenge for maintaining the building.  Working with architects at McGinley Kalsow and Associates, a suitable red sandstone from Locharbriggs, England was identified in 2015, and has been used on two smaller repair projects in order confirm that it will be a good substitute.  When dry the replacement stone is a very close match in terms of color and it was used successfully in a pilot project last year reconstructing buttresses at the southeast corner of the building. The pilot project also provided us with an opportunity to test different mortar recipes for compatibility, color, texture and workability. 


Support Wildlife Habitat: North Dell Meadows

March 25, 2019

Wildlife enhancement has been an institutional priority at Mount Auburn for decades, and one of the most dramatic and significant initiatives has been the multi-year phased woodland restoration in Consecration Dell, a beautiful area with steep forested slopes and a vernal pool at its center. The Dell is ecologically significant in large part because of the diverse populations of migratory and resident birds it attracts each year, making it a destination for birdwatchers from near and far. Work to restore the Dell to a more natural state began in 1995 with the planting of native species near the banks of the vernal pool, and in 1997 we undertook our first large-scale planting project geared specifically towards wildlife habitat. With support from grants and individual gifts, we have expanded this habitat farther out from the space immediately surrounding the vernal pool, covering most of the woodland slopes surrounding it. Over the years we’ve added many thousands of plants comprising over 128 different native New England species of trees, shrubs, ferns, and other groundcovers. The woodland habitat has improved greatly and certainly attracts birds—especially migrating warblers—and birders as well.

Our latest step is to expand the woodland habitat to a new adjacent area, the North Dell Meadows, located atop the Dell’s northern slopes. This project is an expansion of habitat restoration work that we have undertaken over the past twenty-plus years, bringing our improvements into a new adjacent area in order to create contiguous habitat. We will utilize landscape improvement techniques that proved effective in previous projects in the Dell to install a sustainable native plant community appropriate for the area’s conditions. Altogether, Mount Auburn will purchase more than 13,600 plants to be installed in this project, which covers 8,200 square feet. Over the course of our twenty years of replanting in the Dell, we have recognized that the quality of vegetation is paramount when considering the effectiveness of wildlife habitat and the long-term ecological vitality of a site, so that is a top priority in our specific planting decisions.

Coneflowers and mountain mint at the Washington Tower wildflower meadow.

A blend of naturalistic un-mowed grasses and wildflowers will form the underlying basis for an ecosystem that offers a multitude of benefits for pollinators and other insects, especially during the summer months. Masses of Fragrant Sumac, Virginia Rose, and Sheep’s Laurel will form sweeping drifts of vegetation that provide food sources, protection, and nesting opportunities for a wide range of species as well. Other herbaceous plants that will be added to the meadows include Coneflower, Mountain Mint, and New England Blazing Star. In addition, 329 trees and shrubs will be planted in ways that emphasize naturalistic massing, which features a contiguous grouping of different shrub and small tree species to form an intermediate layer in the woodland understory. The insect populations served by such a habitat are an important food source for migratory and resident bird populations at Mount Auburn. This “shrubland-habitat” is one that many birds use, and the expansion of these various habitat resources will be a new and important resource for the birds around the Dell.

Liatris scariosa also known as Northern Blazing Star
at the Washington Tower wildflower meadow .

Our 175-acre landscape has been recognized as a valuable green space in the increasingly urbanized Boston area, both as an oasis for the public and as an urban wildlife refuge. Developing sustainable habitat in the landscape has been an institutional priority for over two decades and was formalized in 2014 when our staff worked with a team of experts – ecologists, hydrologists, environmental engineers, ornithologists, herpetologists, landscape designers, and master planners – to create an official Wildlife Action Plan. Its goal was to assess our established habitat projects, and to develop a plan for future actions. The complete plan was released in 2015 and has been informing our decisions on maintaining our landscape as a sustainable habitat ever since.

Native ferns and wildflowers at north end of Consecration Dell.

The variety of habitat enhancement projects that we have completed to date, both in Consecration Dell and elsewhere in the Cemetery, all represent important steps in our ongoing effort to manage Mount Auburn as an urban wildlife sanctuary. Each site was designed with specific long-term habitat goals in mind. However, until they are linked together to form a large area of contiguous habitat-rich landscape, their value will not be fully maximized. Our goal of connecting a large part of Mount Auburn’s core to form a cohesive area of diverse habitats will enhance the effectiveness of each of the pieces we have built over the years. The North Dell Meadows are located at the northern end of the Dell and just south of the Narcissus/Beech Wildlife Corridor, and once replanted, will provide an essential link between these different but mutually-supportive wildlife habitats.

Please help us to protect urban wildlife because their survival is in our hands. To make a gift and join us in restoring native habitat, please click here.

Season of Remembrance: Spring 2019

March 25, 2019

We are now accepting orders for the Spring Season of Remembrance. 

A selection of potted plants is available for placement on the grounds at graves, lots, or crypts. Cut flower bouquets may be purchased for placement at columbaria niches in Story Chapel or Bigelow Chapel. 

Spring tributes will be placed on the grounds on April 18 & 19. All tributes will be removed during the week of May 6th.

Please place your order by Friday, April 12, 2019.

Support Preservation of Significant Monuments: Whitney and Fagnani

March 17, 2019

Mount Auburn’s collection of monuments and funerary art give meaning and spiritual significance to the Cemetery’s historic landscape. Dating from the early 19th century through to today, every memorial contributes to the qualities that help make the Cemetery “a site of comfort and inspiration to the bereaved and the public as a whole.” The wide-ranging diversity represented in the monuments, from contemporary flush markers to lavish Victorian sculptures, helps create the aesthetic richness and unique texture of Mount Auburn’s designed landscape.

Monument commemorating Beatrice Fagnani (1855-1857) is urgently in need of repair.

Preserving our historic monuments and buildings is a priority, and a challenge. After years of exposure to New England weather, many monuments, particularly marble memorials, now require an extra level of care and maintenance to protect and stabilize them. Beginning in 2014, the Friends of Mount Auburn has been working closely with Cemetery preservation and curatorial staff on a multi-year initiative to raise funds to conserve the most significant monuments on our grounds. To date, seven significant monuments have been professionally treated by a sculpture conservator working with the Cemetery. Plans are currently underway for conservation of the Whitney and Fagnani monuments. Both memorials are urgently in need of care and conservation.

Delicate morning glory sculpture commemorating Beatrice Fagnani (1855-1857). Photo by Greg Heins, 2014.

Beatrice Fagnani Monument

1857 Marble sculpture of a morning glory flower

Sculptor: Patrizio Piatti (c.1824-1888)

The delicate morning glory sculpture commemorating Beatrice Fagnani (1855-1857) has eroded and cracked over time. The monument is urgently in need of repair and conservation as the flower has broken in half and is being carefully stored inside until repairs are possible. Carved out of Italian marble by the sculptor Patrizio Piatti in 1857, this significant monument is a tender example of Victorian iconography. The morning glory flower, with its fluted form and overlapping leaves, closes in the evening and blooms in the morning, symbolizing death and rebirth. The inscription on the small pedestal is a poem by Maria White Lowell. Conservation will include washing the monument, carefully re-attaching the broken flower and filling any voids or cracks, and treating the monument with a stone consolidant to slow deterioration.

The morning glory sculpture commemorating Beatrice Fagnani (1855-1857) has eroded and cracked over time and is urgently in need of repair. The flower has broken in half and is being carefully stored inside until repairs are possible

Charles Whitney Monument

1883 Marble sarcophagus with sculpture of an angel and putto on a raised pedestal

Sculptor: Nicola Cantalamessa-Pappotti (1833-1910)

The dramatic Whitney Monument was commissioned by Charles Whitney (1828-1887) for his lot at Mount Auburn. Photo by Greg Heins, 2014.

The dramatic Whitney Monument was commissioned by Charles Whitney (1828-1887) for his lot at Mount Auburn. Whitney, who operated one of the largest lumber enterprises in the United States, commissioned the sculptor Nicola Cantalamessa-Papotti to create the large, marble memorial in 1883.

Putto on raised pedestal of Whitney Monument. Photo by Greg Heins, 2014.

The monument depicts a magnificent angel with outstretched wings atop a large sarcophagus with a putto (a winged figure of a child) holding two floral wreaths at its base. Significant losses are evident, including the large, ornate left wing of the angel and the right foot of the putto which have both been broken off.  The monument also shows signs of considerable erosion, and there are cracks and fissures throughout the marble. Conservation treatment will include washing the entire surface of the monument, removing dark gypsum crusts with a handheld laser, repointing the joints in the granite stones that make up the base, filling in all cracks and voids in the marble, and applying consolidant to the marble to stabilize the surface and slow further loss.

Donate today and join us in preserving our most significant monuments, please click here. Or contact Jenny Gilbert, Director of Institutional Advancement at 617-607-1970 or