Cemetery Engineering

Date Published: 
August, 1925
Original Author: 
Frank Eurich
Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 39th Annual Convention

It would seem rather presumptuous on my part to have you expect me to present something new on this subject when the records of our Association reveal that the same has been repeatedly written about and ably interpreted.

However, in complying with the Committee's wish to prepare a paper on this subject the thought occurred to me that after all the purpose of a paper is not so much to bring before the meeting something new, but rather to provide material for a profitable discussion, so with this thought in mind I have prepared the following remarks:

It is only of later years that cemetery engineering and the co-relative landscape engineering have developed into a branch of civil engineering, dealing with special problems and it may be said that admirable results in the way of cemetery work are to be recorded, for it can be readily understood that cemetery engineering and landscape engineering must plan and work hand in hand in order to produce satisfactory results.

In as much as plans for building and improving a cemetery are positively required, any corporation engaging to do this should seek the advice of and consult with a qualified cemetery engineer before beginning operations. There are a series of plans necessary for the successful laying out and improving a cemetery of which the principal ones are Topographical Plan, the work plan and the Section and Lot Plan.

The first step in the way of plans is to secure an accurate topographical survey and map of the property, giving a description of the same, measurements of the boundaries together with angles, curves, if any; this pan will include the cross-sectioning of the property into squares, usually 100 feet to a side, with one set of lines running parallel and the other at right angles preferably to one of the property boundaries. For the identification of each intersection it is well to use the alphabet for one set of lines and numericals on those at right angles with the lettered lines, thus will each intersection be designated by a letter and a number. The accuracy of this work both on the plans and in the field is of vital importance, because all future plans are based on these lines and intersections; therefore care should be taken to preserve their locations by methods which will prevent losing them when improvements are going on. Cross sectioning as the base for all plans for cemetery improvements has been mentioned in various articles; it bears repetition particularly on account of the minimum chance for any errors in the development of improvements.

In order to secure the conformation of the surface elevations are taken at the cross section intersections and at as many points within each square deemed necessary to be able to plat like level contours. All outstanding natural features present on the premises, buildings, trees, either single or in groups, wooded .portions, slopes, ravines, rocks, water courses, springs, etc., are located with ease from cross section lines and their elevations noted.  There is this to be added in favor of the cross sectioning system that work can be begun and carried on in various parts of the grounds with the absolute assurance that, when the work of these parts are brought together there will be no misfit.

The first study of the road system is made on or with the aid of the topographical plan, when doubtful as to the correctness of any location or direction temporary stakes are set out and when satisfactory lines adjusted to the topography have been obtained measurements are recorded on the "Work Plan."

Preferably this plan is to be drawn in the same scale as the topographical plan, is to have the cross sectioning lines numbered and lettered as mentioned before and the drives located thus forming the system of sections. For setting out centers of drives various more or less intricate methods are employed; a practical and easy method is to do so by measured off sets from the cross section lines. At 20' or 25' equal distances along these lines off sets are drawn at right angles from them to the centre of the drives and the distances scaled as closely as possible; in the field it is comparatively an easy matter to locate these off sets with the subtended distances. If it should occur that stakes thus placed do not exactly meet the requirements of a good curve corrections should be made at once by moving the stakes that appear out of line for a harmonious curve into positions to satisfy the eye. If the scaling was done carefully very few corrections will most likely be required, but any and every deviation found from the given measurements should be recorded on the plan at once.

In as much as centre stakes of a drive are most apt to be lost or misplaced during the progress of grading it is good practice to set guide stakes on each side of the drive opposite the centre stakes about two feet beyond the required width of the drive.  Stakes set in this position are more likely to be preserved and also serve good purpose for marking them with necessary figures for cut or fill required for the grade at these points, thus acting as a guide for the operator in grading.

Established grades of the drives are recorded on this plan and new like level contours may also be drawn indicating the proposed changes in the surfaces of the sections, storm water drains are to be drawn, sizes of crock and grades of the same indicated together with the necessary catch basins and their connections.

Memoranda of underground drains, if such appear to be necessary will be recorded on this plan; so too it will show whatever system is adopted for the distribution of water to all portions of the grounds. Location of main entrance and auxiliary entrances, chapel, vault, office, residence, etc., are also to be shown, as well as any special features, which are to be provided either for temporary or permanent use.

The system of drives forming the sections is produced on the Section and Lot plan in precisely the same manner as mentioned for the previous plan, namely by measured off sets from the cross section lines. Preliminary studies are made for subdividing sections into lots, the principal lines of which should be tried out on the grounds and adjusted.  In this connection it is to be said that no matter how well and carefully the subdivision has been planned and worked out there is always a possibility of changes to be expected in the future to accommodate special demands of prospective purchasers; for that reason it is best to complete platting only such portions of the cemetery that are to be opened for sale, reserving the remainder to be arranged for future requirements.

While it is understood that the section and lot plan must be carefully drawn to scale the actual sizes of lots or groups, ornamental spaces, grass walks and borders will not be recorded upon the same. For that purpose plats in a larger scale should be prepared of one or more sections on one sheet. On these detailed plats again will appear the cross section lines for the purpose of outlining the section itself; all lots are platted from actual measurements taken on the grounds, both as to their sizes and as to their relation to the cross section lines, thus recording the position of a lot or a group in a definite manner.

The system of planning herewith briefly outlined reduces the work of engineering and platting to the simplest method and it is an absolutely reliable method when the work is carefully and accurately done.

It is a fact recognized by experienced cemetery men that the entire and complete planning of a cemetery should not be left in the hands of an artist alone; the latter should avail himself of the helpful assistance of the engineer to accomplish results which will be practical from a business standpoint and beautiful from an esthetic standpoint.

I have purposely refrained from mentioning planting plans or the work of draining, road building, etc., because there is plenty of that in our previous reports to guide anybody in that line.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 39th Annual Convention
Chicago, Illinois
August 24, 25, 26 and 27, 1925