Beyond Somerville: History and Nature Intersect at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

I’m ashamed to say that it’s taken me four-and-a-half years of living in Somerville to finally visit Mt. Auburn Cemetery. And now that I know what I’m missing, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get there.

The quiet, shaded paths leading to secret garden-like nature areas provide the perfect backdrop for an ambling afternoon stroll on a warm day. And of course, the history of the place cannot be ignored. The final resting place of infamous figures like cookbook author Fannie Farmer, inventor and geodesic dome enthusiast Buckminster Fuller and painter Winslow Homer (among many others), there’s a weightiness to the place that cannot be ignored.

There’s ample parking at Mt. Auburn, just avoid the grass and roads with green lines painted on them. The cemetery also provides bike racks for those who prefer getting there under their own power. Just don’t bike, run or rollerblade in the cemetery, as the paths are reserved for pedestrian and car traffic.

There’s an information center inside the chapel near the front gates and I advise stopping by before you set out. It’s worth it to cough up 50 cents for a map and pamphlet detailing where you’ll find the most famous graves and monuments. The day I went to Mt. Auburn, I met a most helpful woman in the chapel who directed me to two nice walks that allowed me to take in many of the most famous sites as well as go off the beaten path a bit.

I did the inner loop, which is about a mile long, and made many stops along the way, often wandering off down side paths to check out an interesting-looking or famous grave. The loop took me by a large tower, which you can climb to take in views of Boston and the surrounding towns. The sight is lovely on a clear day.

You’ll also pass the dell, a small area that the cemetery has let go a bit wild. When you make it down into the dell, you feel as though the world has melted away. The serenity of the place will make you hard-pressed to remember that Harvard Square and Boston beyond are to be found right outside the cemetery gates. It feels as though you are far away from the hustle and bustle of the city without the hassle of schlepping somewhere farther afield.

After I finished the inner loop, I walked down the Indian Ridge Path. This one was a bit less trod and took me by famous graves like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On my way back to the front gate, I swung by Halcyon Lake, which features a large, beautiful monument to Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Church of Christ, Scientist.

Some may think it’s creepy to walk around in a cemetery, but there’s not anything weird about Mt. Auburn. It’s a one-of-a-kind historic site, a gorgeous place to take a long walk and will likely leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed.

Details

Who: All sorts of famous dead people
What: Mt. Auburn Cemetery
Where: 580 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge
When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. October through April; 8 a.m.-7 p.m. May through September
Why: Because it’s beautiful and historic and you should really just see it for yourself!
More Information: Mt. Auburn (Full disclosure: This awesome website was designed by Upstatement, who also created the Beat’s website!)
Nearby Eats: The cemetery doesn’t allow guests to eat inside the gates, but there are plenty of nice places nearby to get a bite. Sofra Bakery, located just down the street, is a terrific option. I’m also partial to Crema Cafe and Darwin’s, both located in Harvard Square.
Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and wear sunscreen (OK, I’ll stop). And keep in mind that this is an active cemetery, so be respectful, as you may see funerals taking place.

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2 Responses to Beyond Somerville: History and Nature Intersect at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

  1. Great pics! That place is really neat, tons of bird watching and rare plants/trees too.

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