Three important colonial burying grounds—Granary, King’s Chapel, and Copp’s Hill—are in Boston, but the most famous cemetery in the area is in Cambridge.
Mount Auburn Cemetery, the final resting place of many well-known Americans, is also famous simply for existing. Dedicated in 1831, it was the first of the country’s rural, or garden, cemeteries. The establishment of burying places removed from city centers reflected practical and philosophical concerns: Development was encroaching on urban graveyards, and the ideas associated with Transcendentalism and the Greek revival gave communing with nature precedence over organized religion. Since the day it opened, Mount Auburn has been a popular place to retreat and reflect.
Visitors to this National Historic Landmark find history and horticulture coexisting with celebrity. The graves of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Julia Ward Howe, and Mary Baker Eddy are here, as are those of Charles Bulfinch, James Russell Lowell, Winslow Homer, the Transcendentalist leader Margaret Fuller, and the abolitionist Charles Sumner. In season, you’ll see gorgeous flowering trees and shrubs (the Massachusetts Horticultural Society had a hand in the design).
Stop at the visitor center in Story Chapel (daily 9am–4pm Apr–Oct; closed Sun Nov–Mar and year-round during burials) for an overview and a look at the changing exhibits, or ask at the office or front gate for brochures and a map. Visit http://mountauburn.toursphere.com/en/ to select a free self-guided tour. Note that animals and recreational activities such as jogging, biking, and picnicking are not allowed.
The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery conducts workshops and lectures and coordinates walking tours; call the main number for topics, schedules, and fees.