Mount Hope Cemetery
[Note: this reproduction of the information in the Boston Landmarks Area Form may have typographical errors, and for technical matters, the reader may want to consult a copy of the original, which is available at the Boston Landmarks Commission or the Dorchester Historical Society]
Mount Hope Cemetery’s 125 acres straddle Boston’s Mattapan and Roslindale neighborhoods. The cemetery lies south of Forest Hills Cemetery and Franklin Park and is bound by Walk Hill Street on the north, Cavalry Cemetery on the South, the New Calvary Cemetery on the east, and the American Legion Highway on the west. The cemetery, chapel, and administration building were surveyed as part of the Roslindale/West Roxbury survey in 1989. No recommendation for National Register eligibility was made at that time. BLC staff believes the cemetery and its related buildings are eligible for listing on the National Register under criteria A and C at the local level.
Mount Hope Cemetery was incorporated in 1851 and consecrated in 1852 as a private cemetery. At the time of the consecration of the grounds, the cemetery consisted of approximately eighty-five acres, now the southern portion of the current current site. The original acreage of the cemetery was expanded in small parcels over the next seventy years to its size of 125 acres; the most recent of these additions occurred in 1929. The cemetery’s grounds reflect the influence of its first Superintendent, David Haggerston, who served as the first Superintendent of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1833-34. In much the same way as Mount Auburn Cemetery, the landscape development of Mount Hope Cemetery followed the tenants of what became known as the Rural Cemetery Movement, resulting in grounds that served as passive recreation spaces as well as burial grounds. The cemetery has a variety of topography ranging from broad expanses of lawn with a few shade trees, to steep, craggy knolls, rock outcrops, and pockets of woods.
Around the time when Mount Hope Cemetery was established, the City of Boston was seeking to develop a municipal rural cemetery. In 1857, the City of Boston purchased Mount Hope to fulfill that need. It was the first large cemetery owned by the city, and provided burial space at a lower cost than the city’s older cemeteries closer to downtown. While under private ownership, the cemetery offered association/fraternal organizational plots, family plots, and sing graves for people of limited means at a moderate cost. Once under City of Boston ownership, the cemetery also offered public burial space for the poor. Five acres were reserved for this use; the space was designated the City Cemetery. The public burial space was differentiated from the rest of the cemetery by a pair of square granite posts and a wooden fence, a separate entrance on Canterbury Street, and no headstones or monuments on the grounds. The City Cemetery was enlarged in 1872, 1882, 1884, and 1885, expanding the available land for public burials to 10 acres, but demand exceeded capacity and 1902 the City Cemetery was declared full. Seven additional acres were purchased for public burials in 1903.
Grave markers at Mount Hope range from mid nineteenth century marble through contemporary granite markers. Burials before the 1890s were marked exclusively with marble markers; the cemetery features several hundred of these. Granite markers were introduced in the late nineteenth century and were the dominant form of grave marker by the 1910s and 1920s. Mount Hope also features a notable collection of nineteenth century pressed zinc monuments, as well as a large number of monuments representing associations and fraternal organizations.
Among the character defining features of Mount Hope are the chapel and the administration building located at the entrance to the cemetery. The one story, Gothic Revival chapel, which opened on June 20, 1900, was designed by the architectural firm of Wood and White and is constructed of seam face ledge stone with limestone trim. The administration building is similarly appointed, constructed of seam faced granite with Indiana limestone trim with Gothic Revival details. Architect James Mulcahy designed the building which opened in 1903 and replaced an earlier wood frame office building. The chapel and administration building create a picturesque frame for the main entrance to the cemetery.
As the first large, rural cemetery owned by the City of Boston, Mount Hope Cemetery is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic places under criteria A with significance at the local level. For design elements associated with the Rural Cemetery Movement of the mid-late nineteenth century, Mount Hope Cemetery is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under criteria C at the local level.