The Advantages of Restricting Size of Monuments

Date Published: 
September, 1919
Original Author: 
Thomas Wallis
Chicago, IL
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Convention

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Convention:

I don't know why Mr. Salway should call on me to read a paper here today when there are so many brilliant speakers present who would do justice to this distinguished audience. However, he did, and I'll do my best.

My subject is “The Advantages of Restricting the Size of Monuments.”

The advantages of a rule to limit the size of a monument to a certain percentage of area of the lot on which it is erected, is apparently not generally appreciated, and I thought a few words on this subject might be appropriate.

First, the ground not covered by stone work has a more pleasing appearance, the grass is much easier to cut and larger spaces between monuments as well as markers, gives a more beautiful landscape.

In addition to this it is better for the Cemetery financially. We all know that many, people are vain and their first thought is to have a monument that will be conspicuous, even though they require space for only two or three graves. The majority of families are small nowadays and people figure they want space for just so many graves before they come out to buy and have the general idea that a Cemetery will be glad to let them put up any kind of a monument they may want. Let a salesman ascertain at once whether or not they contemplate a monument in the future and he is then in a better position to know what to do. Of course, some lots are sold without monument privileges, but I, find it hard to educate many people that a monument is not necessary.

Only a short time ago a lady died and left in her will the sum of $500.00 for a monument to herself, and her executors wanted to purchase space for one grave only, as she had no relatives to use additional graves, but as our rules permitted only 4% of the area to be used for a monument it was necessary for them to buy a fair-sized lot in order to carry out her wishes. Similar cases are numerous, but I have another case in mind which involved a considerable amount of money and proved very advantageous to the Cemetery.

In June of this year one of our lot owners sent out an artist with a design of a very large and ornamental settee for a monument which he proposed to set on a lot 20x24 that he had owned for many years. I informed the artist it would be impossible to erect this Memorial on so small a lot at which he was quite indignant said our rules were arbitrary and we ought to be glad to have such an exquisite piece of work in our Cemetery, as it would be such an asset to the surroundings. After considerable talk I partly convinced him that our rules were made for the benefit of our patrons and beauty of the Cemetery and suggested to him to reduce the size to conform to them. This he objected to, naturally. Then I suggested that the purchaser might consider a larger lot, to which he also objected as it was against their religion to move the dead. The interview ended with him going away still indignant and under the impression that our rules were arbitrary and we did not appreciate a work of art. He said we ought to have someone in charge that had ability and taste to discriminate and approve artistic designs. Of course, I told him that tastes and opinions varied so much that it was almost impossible to find two persons who thought alike on any subject and especially art for a cemetery.

I finally suggested that I would like to sell the lot owner and explain the matter to him personally, and an appointment was made a few days later. A party of four came and practically all of them objected to the thought of removing to another lot. I praised the design, which was quite worthy of admiration, and after a good deal of discussion and showing them over the grounds, pointing out the advantages of a large lot, I felt I was gradually overcoming their prejudice to removal. After two more interviews negotiations were completed for a lot to cost over $20,000.00 on which the memorial is to be placed.

Had it not been for the restrictions, this memorial would have been set on a small lot, practically covering it, in the midst of old fashioned stones, and the beautiful effect entirely spoiled by the surroundings. In addition to this we should not have sold the new lot, which you will no doubt agree is an item worthy of consideration.

Of course, it was not necessary to have quite as large a lot as they finally purchased, but they realized by that time that plenty of lawn space and the use of suitable shrubbery would enhance the beauty of their design and give the desired effect. I am confident that the owner will feel rewarded both for the money expended and the sacrifice of his sentimental objections against removing the dead.

MORAL--Sell a lot to fit a monument, rather than spoil your Cemetery by crowding stones together and getting the effect of a stone yard instead of a Cemetery.

President Wm. H. Atkinson: Are there any remarks on this paper of Mr. Wallis?
Mr. H. Wilson Ross: I think it is well to draw the attention of this audience more carefully to the remarks Mr. Wallis has made, for I know that we all in the past have made the mistake of allowing too much monumental work to be placed on lots of especially the smaller sizes. Very many times artistic monuments have been erected in places where if the surroundings had been such as to give them the advantage of a good setting, they would have had more than double the artistic effect; but the surroundings were inadequate to secure the effect that they were intended to produce. I think we can well carry home with us the thoughts that Mr. Wallis has suggested, and that it would be well for us to insist more strongly on carrying out many of those ideas in our own grounds.

From the publication:
“AACS - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Convention held at Cincinnati, OH"
September 24, 25 and 26, 1919