Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Interment practices and cemetery placement in America’s urban areas changed dramatically in the mid-nineteenth century. Overcrowded urban graveyards and churchyards were abandoned in favor of spacious, landscaped burial places outside city limits. Driven by a growing population and inspired by shifting social attitudes on death toward the melancholic and sentimental, new “rural” cemeteries not only augmented current burial space but provided a sanitary location for the interment of urban dead.
Mount Auburn Cemetery, founded in 1831, was the first rural or “garden” cemetery in the United States. Like later rural cemeteries, Mount Auburn featured winding roads and walkways, shimmering lakes, stately trees, and sprawling lawns.
Before the advent of extensive park systems, rural cemeteries provided city dwellers, regardless of class, with a place to commune with nature and view works of art.
Because of the success of Mount Auburn, the rural cemetery model was replicated around the country. By the 1860s, rural cemeteries could be found on the outskirts of most urban areas.