A pioneer in the development of the present day cemetery, Mr. A. W. Hobert, former superintendent of Lakewood, Minneapolis, at the time of his death a year ago last March left innumerable of those signs which mark the genius. For 31 years Mr. Hobert devoted his best energies to Lakewood and the esteem in which that cemetery is held today is due almost entirely to his efforts, his imagination and far-sighted methods of management.
Following in the footsteps of one who has been so unanimously successful is a task indeed. The indelible marks of Mr. Hobert's keen individuality are apparent to one who has watched the progress which Lakewood has made and I confess that I imagined myself a second Atlas, bearing the weight of the world on my shoulders when I took over the management of the cemetery last year. This feeling so strong during the first few weeks gradually changed into one of gratitude that I was given the opportunity to carry on the work of a man who, in my mind at least, bore the stamp of master.
To those who are unacquainted with the accomplishments of Mr. Hobert at Lakewood, it might be helpful to have outlined the cardinal features of his labors. Geniuses, I have noticed, always leave one feat or example that elevates them above the mass of ordinary struggling mortals. And so it was with Mr. Hobert and I believe the work which I am about to describe will prove the assertion.
When Mr. Hobert made his first appearance at Lakewood, the cemetery was little more than a woods, poorly landscaped and even more poorly managed. The tract comprised something more than 170 acres, but some portions of this were unsuitable for use. Mr. Hobert's first move was to put the institution on a paying basis, which was indeed no small task and thereafter he devoted himself to rebuilding that part of the cemetery which already had been laid out. His efforts even today are visible, for his skill in landscape gardening changed the appearance of the older portion of the tract from one of mediocrity to one of perfection.
Mr. Hobert, I believe, was one of the first superintendents to recognize the beauty of the lawn-plan and also one of the first to strenuously advocate this system of gardening. His first mission in the early days was one of education rather than achievement, and Lakewood now prides itself on having the greater portion of its land under the lawn plan. Mr. Hobert also insisted that good roads played no unimportant part in the proper development of a present-day's cemetery. As a result, Lakewood now has the highest form of Tarvia roads throughout-roads which I am certain cannot be surpassed any place in the country.
Probably the greatest single monument to Mr. Hobert's farsightedness in the matter of permanent improvements is the mortuary chapel which was completed in November, 1910. Lakewood, as you may know is as near a public institution as possible; that is, money-making is not its primary object. With this in mind, it is possible that Mr. Hobert had a freer rein than numerous superintendents in the country, but the chapel erected at an initial cost of $150,000 and which could not be duplicated for twice that amount today certainly justified that expense. Permanency, sanitation and beauty, the three architectural requisites, are embodied in the chapel. Permanency is found in the granite foundations and walls; sanitation in that each part of the interior can easily be kept clean and beauty in the exquisite mosaic mural decorations which cannot be surpassed on this side of the Atlantic.
The materials entering into the construction of the chapel were of the most imperishable nature. The walls are of reddish gray granite, the dome and roof of Gustavino tile with an outer covering of Spanish wall tile embedded in elastic cement. The interior is a most interesting and valuable example of the mosaic artists' work, the walls, ceiling and dome being designed and executed in Venetian mosaic, imported for the purpose and set by Italians of great ability. These decorations are set off by a harmonious combination of marbles in floor, wainscoting and stairs. A retiring room for ladies and a robing space for the minister are provided and a private chamber on the main floor allows the family of the deceased to remain as secluded as in a home and yet have within full view, the body and the officiating clergyman. The chapel proper is connected with the crematory by a hydraulic lift.
Another important achievement of Mr. Hobert was reclaiming 40 acres of swamp land in the Southwest corner of the tract, which until a few years before his death had remained practically useless. In reclaiming the land Mr. Hobert dug one portion lower than the surrounding land, threw the earth thus accumulated on the nearest adjoining portion of the cemetery and thus in one stroke added a lake to the other landscape charms of Lakewood and availed for practical usage a considerable portion of land.
I spent five years under the tutorship, if it might be called tutorship of Mr. Hobert, and my one ambition is to carry out the plans of development which he many times, previous to his death, outlined to me. At the same time, I hope to put into actuality some of my own ideas. In the past year I have constructed a thoroughly modern garage and stable, entirely removed from the cemetery, and I am now at work in wrecking the old greenhouses and replacing them in thoroughly modern fashion. I will have 75,000 square feet of glass in the new greenhouses.
Lakewood has natural advantages which I do not believe have been worked to their fullest extent, and in addition to following the policy of Mr. Hobert in a general way, I am making an honest endeavor to put the cemetery on a par with any now existing in the United States. The facilities for such an accomplishment are within my grasp, the directors of the institution are farsighted business men and with reasonably intelligent management, I am confident that the task which I have laid out for myself is not an impossible one.
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention
September 13, 14 and 15, 1921