The Cemetery

Date Published: 
August, 1908
Original Author: 
George E. Kessler
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Convention

It always makes a pleasant introduction to see so many visitors and friends having an opportunity to enjoy what Kansas City is decidedly proud of a chance to get out in the woods while still in the city, a chance to get out and see the really great work that Kansas City has authorized.

In what I shall say this afternoon, I wish to emphasize the cemetery, while a place of rest, as being at the same time an essential portion of the park system of every city in the country. You can hardly go anywhere now in the United States where the cemetery itself is not as fine in appearance, as well kept, as any park and fully as attractive; not particularly as a pleasure resort, of course, but certainly as an attractive spot out of doors, where people can feel free to enjoy everything that nature presents to us in all the different forms in different parts of the world. And in that direction I think it worth while to call particular attention to the great contrasts we find in so many different cities. Of course the dominant note of the cemetery today as distinguished from a graveyard, if you please, is the park effect. In contrast with that I have in mind particularly one city in the country where for nearly two miles in length and perhaps a quarter to a half mile in width there is a rich private cemetery that is one succession of stone yards, that in outline gives contrast and perhaps, if you please, the horrible example. Truly, therefore, it is a pleasure to see now in the development of the work a consistent effort towards maintaining the cemetery more as a park than as a burying ground. Undoubtedly, of course, the superintendents have all the trouble in the world in keeping the gentlemen who have charge of the financial end of it from saying that a stone shall go here or there against the rules and regulations and the canons of good taste; but, after all, that becomes a minor thing. This property itself illustrates the park idea, as do so many of the larger cemeteries in the downtown regions, where they do become essential portions of the pleasure drives. Throughout the whole country, where you gentlemen can work out your cemeteries in that way, you are but doing the same work exactly that the designers of great public work are doing; and every effort that you can make to avoid the conditions that I have mentioned will be immensely appreciated by those interested in particular properties, but especially by the whole city. In contrast with the great stone yards that you find throughout the country you can each of you think of your own properties where you have left open grounds, where you have planted bits of green, trees or shrubs, where you have avoided the garishness of too much of floral schemes. I am sure the appreciation comes to you immediately in values as well as in good appearance.

It may be interesting to recall what some of the European countries have been doing for centuries, which you will find in sharp contrast with the truly American idea of the cemetery as a park. If was my good .fortune some years ago to be in Vienna on All-Souls Day, Vienna with its two or three millions of people, having really only one cemetery, a great municipal property, every portion of it enclosed partly by iron fence and partly by walls, every grave raised from one to two feet high and on that particular day and especially in the evening, a light burning on every grave. Of course the whole was an exceedingly interesting thing; but it illustrates the very great progress made in that direction and initiated in the United States. They are all going in that direction now and they all imagine that they are the pioneers in the work; but if you will look back to the early work in this country you will find that it antedates everything in every other country and perhaps the first and largest work of that kind is in "Spring Grove." From that everyone has developed in his own particular way a park that is well worthy everywhere of being incorporated into the park system. In St. Louis I have endeavored to incorporate the two great cemeteries on the north into the final park system by bringing King's Highway into touch with it. In Indianapolis today we are working out a boulevard system that will take in "Crown Hill" on one side. In Syracuse, NY, I noticed not long ago the very beautiful showing made by "Oakwood" and "Morningside" and a boulevard projected along the side of them shows these two properties to be perfect parks in themselves.

In the case of this property where we are today, although quite a distance east of the city, the Blue Ridge road lying on the hills just west of us will undoubtedly become a part of the great system of pleasure drives, and this property will be fitted into the Kansas City system.

The whole idea, however, that has impressed me regarding the incorporation of these properties into the public systems is that, in the absence of the "stone yard," the great open places of our cemeteries become as important as any, of our parks or the open places of every city. And looking in that direction, I wish very much you might encourage your sales agents to sell land rather than to sell stone.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Convention
Held at Kansas City, MO
August 11, 12 and 13, 1908