In the great age of funerary display, landscape architecture was an important part of the design of plots and around mausolea. In the great cemeteries such as West Laurel Hill, careful upkeep means the hand of the landscape architect is often visible even a hundred or more years later.
All too often, however, the natural life-cycle of cemeteries—filling up or left behind, as Laurel Hill was by West Laurel Hill—deprived many of them of funds, and thus the careful maintenance required to maintain the landscape architecture, even if they escaped the vandalism that all too often plagued them as the neighborhoods in which they were situated became dicey.
The Charles Lee Robinson mausoleum of 1922, a handsome and solid Egyptian Revival number in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Winchester, VA, is reasonably pristine (figures 1, 2, 3). It occupies most of a plot that is crowded in with older and newer graves. The landscape architect chose to demarcate the mausoleum from the surrounding riff-raff by a buffer of boxwood bushes forming, as they usually do, a hedge. Boxwood is pliable, and makes a hardy evergreen hedge. It prunes well, if one is interested in having it retain a smaller form.
The Robinson hedge circles the mausoleum except for the entrance. Large pompoms fill the corners while a lower hedge runs between them. After a hundred years, it’s clear that someone has been sedulously trimming this hedge and cutting it off to the height of the second course of rustic-face masonry all around the building. It gives a nice chance to see an original design fairly close to the way it was meant to look.
Neglect usually shows its hand in two ways. First, failure to replant when a bush or tree dies, and a failure to trim back sometimes monstrously overgrown landscaping. Asymmetries and hypertrophies are the telltales here. I should also mention the invasion of volunteer species not intended as a part of the original landscaping.
You’ll have seen that the categories overlap to a degree, and several of the monuments shown have been invaded by volunteers of one sort or another.
It’s quarantine time! The attentive reader is invited to analyze the Jones plot in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore. Something here is not what it seems. I’ll post my solution in a separate post.