Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Grave of Wade Edwards
Oakwood Cemetery
Raleigh, NC

Tombstone Tuesday: A blog about a graveyard frog.....

How many of you examined my previous post carefully enough to catch a glimpse of the frog in the background? As I was marveling over the white bronze markers at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia (see previous blog), off in the distance I thought I saw a frog... but then I told myself that it was not possible. That no way, at this historic rural cemetery was there a frog amongst the monuments. So I scampered up the hill even further until I arrived upon this frog. Really. A frog.

I wish I could identify who the frog memorializes. I wish I could explain what the frog means. But all I can do is tell you the frog stood about 3 feet high, it was holding an American flag (a patriotic frog, apparently), and on it's stand were two photographs. The top one was a picture of the Beatles. On top of the photo was a candle, and 2 coins; one foreign and one a US penny.

Upon examining the back of the monument, there was a beer can jammed into the back open portion of the frog. He was aged, but not markedly so. Around the base of the frog were small stones/pebbles. The frog looked up, towards the sky.

If I were to pull out my trusty cemetery symbolism book, it would tell me that frogs are a symbol of armageddon. But somehow, that doesn't seem right! :-) This frog means a lot more then a cemetery symbolism book can tell us. This frog, in a cemetery with 18,000 Confederate Civil War dead, with US Presidents, and amazing monuments with symbols that tell us what whole communities valued, in a city that has an avenue of monuments to honor its heros, means more to someone then any of those things combined. It's not as simple as what a cemetery symbolism book can tell us. Maybe it's not for us to know.

But on a bright sunny summer day in Richmond, the frog caught my eye, and for a moment, I honored that frog and all it may symbolize.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hollywood Cemetery: graveyard with a view

Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Virginia...Picture this: a hot summer day with cool breezes from the James River... and rolling hills as far as the eye can see... with monument after monument honoring Richmond's dead. Here in Hollywood cemetery, many of the permanent residents enjoy a beautiful view... for eternity. The skyline, the river... the hills... what more can one ask for?

The above picture is just one of a kazillion shots I took while at Hollywood Cemetery on Saturday. The Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle ventured out of NC into VA... and was in awe over the small glimpse of this vast cemetery that I experienced.

According to Wikipedia (i question the source, but it's a direct link off of www.hollywoodcemetery.org)

"Hollywood Cemetery is a large, sprawling cemetery located at 412 South Cherry Street in Richmond, Virginia. Characterized by rolling hills and winding paths overlooking the James River, it is the resting place of two United States Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler, as well as the only Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. It is also the resting place of 25 Confederate generals, the most of any cemetery in the country. Included are George Pickett and J.E.B. Stuart.

Hollywood Cemetery was opened in 1849, constructed on land known as "Harvie's Woods" that was once owned by William Byrd II. It was designed in the rural garden style, with its name, "Hollywood," coming from the holly trees dotting the hills of the property.

In 1869, a 90-foot (27 m)-high granite pyramid was built as a memorial to the more than 18,000 enlisted men of the Confederate Army who are buried in the cemetery.

Hollywood Cemetery is one of Richmond's major tourist attractions."

The above photo is of 2 white bronze markers....which caught my eye so I ran up the hillside to see them. The hands shaking, while husband and wife, in this case could simply mean hello or good bye- as the cuffs are both gender neutral. Remember white bronze markers are not white nor bronze, but really have a blueish tint and are made of zinc. They could be ordered from catalogs during their hey day, primarily around the turn of the century and into the early 1900s. I've been a fan of the white bronze marker since my days in Hawai`i.

Normally I would crop the photo better, but I want you to look closely at the the monument up the hill from the white bronze markers.... that will be the subject of my next post... til then, fellow graveyard fans.... have a great day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hollywood Cemetery Here I Come!

Hello, loyal readers... While I will make my way to Woodlawn and Maplewood Cemeteries in Durham this afternoon for findagrave.com requests.... tomorrow the Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle will be headed to Richmond, VA...for a day of sightseeing! Top on my list of places to see is Hollywood Cemetery... so be sure to visit Sunday for new pictures...

have a great weekend...be sure to visit your local cemeteries!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Headless Angel, Maplewood Cemetery, Durham, North Carolina

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

The Rubicon

What is the Rubicon? And what does it have to do with funerary art? Two questions you very well may be asking yourselves right now!

The monument to the right is entitled the Rubicon, carved by local Raleigh artist Paris Alexander. What is the Rubicon? It is a river in Northern Italy- but it is synonymous for "the point of no return." When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC he broke the law which banned the crossing of the river with an Army, and there by made war inevitable. See how the Rubicon is a perfect symbol for death? Once you cross the "river of death" there's no turning back!

This monument, found at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh is striking, to say the least. Commissioned by Sam Tarlton, it was created and placed before his death. It is eye catching and if you've ever been on my tour you know that I try walking right on by it...to see if anyone stops me to ask what it is!

Who was this unique man that commissioned such a beautiful piece of art? Sam Tarlton was a well known antiques dealer who was beloved in his community. For 14 years he headed up the North Carolina Historic Sites Division and was an antique dealer for over 40 years. According to his obituary published in the News and Observer after his March 12, 2009 death, "He had such a presence -- a twinkle, a good story, a great deal of charm -- as well as extraordinary knowledge," said David Lindquist, a Chapel Hill antiques dealer and long-time associate of Tarlton. "He was always willing to share it."

So on this Tombstone Tuesday, let's raise a glass to Sam Tarlton and other creative Americans who show their personality in life and in death! Cheers!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Child's Grave, Maplewood Cemetery, Durham NC

Tombstone Tuesday

While we stroll through historic cemeteries, looking for lost treasures of symbols and stones, we often forget to spend a lot of time in the more modern sections of these amazing places.

At Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, NC I had the pleasure of spotting a beautiful memorial. Do you see the marker in the photo? It's hardly noticeable. But look at everything else! Besides the inviting chair, if you could zoom in you'd see a stone that says, "mama's garden;" you can see bird feeders, flowers, and a little bird bath with 2 rubber duckies. It's an amazing celebration of life and a beautiful place to sit, reflect, and most importantly, remember. What is a cemetery if not a place for these types of activities?

If we look to the beginnings of Rural/Garden Cemeteries, we see a shift in how we as citizens of the world began to view death. Gone were the days of fearing our demise, in the 1860s and beyond we began to romanticize death! As that shifted, we began to celebrate life! Now, in the modern era, many cemetery observers admire the funeral goods left behind. Often, at a child's grave you'll see their favorite toy car or GI Joe man. At Mama's Garden, we probably see the things that Mama, in this case, Lena Dee Armstrong Howerton, cherished. These funeral goods give us a sneak peak into not the death and sadness of the family, but of the life of Ms Howerton. It gives the family peace of mind that the Ms Howerton's favorites of life surround her... and when they come to remember and reflect, they are surrounded by the beauty that surrounded their loved one.

So remember to visit the newer sections of cemeteries. Life is around every corner!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Symbolism Sunday

Just to mark your calendars, if you're in the Raleigh area this Saturday, May 23 and would like to go on a Monument Art and Symbolism tour at Historic Oakwood Cemetery, be sure to call the cemetery office and reserve your spot this week. The tour is from 3-5pm. Be sure to bring water! The Oakwood Cemetery office phone number is 919 832 6077.

Historic Oakwood Cemetery was founded in 1869 and is the permanent home to many of Raleigh's famous citizens, but it's much more then that. It's also the final beautiful resting place to average joe's and jane's, too! There's still over 200 years of burial space left. So come along on my tour, learn a lot about cemetery symbols AND pick your final resting place! :-)

To start our week off right, I've included a favorite cemetery symbol from a marker at Oakwood Cemetery. It's a simple one, but can mean 2 different things.

The photo is of a grave with 2 hands shaking. It can symbolize a hello or good bye, which makes sense, right, at a grave? The deceased is saying farewell to us, the living, as they depart on their next journey; or is saying hello to those they are greeting on the other side. But if you look closer at the cuffs on each of the hands, the meaning changes. In this example, the cuffs of one of the hands (on the left) is a frilly female cuff. The cuff on the right hand is more of a traditional suit or male cuff. This symbolizes that the deceased was married! Just like how in more modern sections of the cemetery we will see interlocking wedding rings to symbolize marriage, in the older part of Oakwood, earlier Americans also felt it was important to share the same information; they just used a different symbol!

So...enough with my cemetery symbols...don't forget to sign up for my tour! Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Statuary Saturday and Graveyard DOGS?!

While visiting Maplewood Cemetery in Durham NC working on a findagrave.com request with my folks, I stumbled across a GEM of a cemetery. After fulfilling the requests, we kept driving through this cemetery, which never seemed to end!

I'm a big fan off surrogate mourners, what I call statues of grieving women that stand as beautiful monuments to the dead. They are there to mourn for the loved one when the family isn't. Maplewood had FINE examples of surrogate mourners, as you can see in the post. At the plot for Julian Carr (a shout out to all you fine residents of Carrboro, NC) there were 3 beautiful statues. One was an angel kneeling, and on the back of her wings were 2 beautiful poems. I'll go back and transcribe them for all of you soon.

Julian Carr, October 12, 1845-April 29, 1924, was an industrialist and philanthropist from North Carolina. He also served as a Private in the Confederate States of America. Instrumental in the founding of Duke University, the town of Carrboro was named in his honor after agreeing to extend electricity to what was then known as West End. He and his family lay in eternal rest at Maplewood Cemetery. (source: Wikipedia)

While driving through this cemetery, I thought I caught a glimpse of a statue of a dog (which I have seen before at Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, AL). I looked closer and realized that there were 4 DOGS (not graveyard rabbits) laying in the shade... they took off..and began to explore on their own!

At Maplewood Cemetery, it's somehow soothing to know that these surrogate mourners are forever present at this grave. Be on the look out for new posts for tombstone Tuesday... I have some good shots of the grave of Washington Duke and others! Enjoy your weekend! Thanks to my mom and dad for exploring with me!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

So, here's my first Tombstone Tuesday.... and instead of posting tombstone trivia or highlighting a particular grave this week, I thought I'd take the time to list a few of the cemeteries I plan on visiting in the next few weeks. Oakwood is definitely on the list, as I prepare for my next tour. I counted on my way home today, and I passed 3 graveyards in the 11.9 mile route. Those are on my list to swing by. For work, we have at least 2-3 cemeteries on our properties that I've been inquiring about....so stay tuned for some pics of those as well. :-) Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Joy of Rural/Garden Graveyards.....

Doesn't that sound odd? The Joy of Graveyards? To some yes, it might. But to us graveyard enthusiasts.... maybe not. Remember, after the creation of Pere Le Chaise and Mt Auburn, cemeteries were seen as public parks... where couples courted, families strolled...and admission booths and concession stands were found. The Victorian age brought about cemeteries with streams, rolling hills, and a commonality of permanent residents. Benches were placed about the cemetery for reflection, monuments reached toward the sky....and beauty prevailed. Death was no longer feared. Amen!

While many cemeteries have had to do away with these elements due to space constraints, pieces of this trend still remain. Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh is a prime example. Winding roads, hills, benches and amazing monuments from the 1870s abound! Strolling through the cemetery in 2009 provides insight into life from that era. We see obvious symbols of the resident's faith highlighted, symbols of the organizations they belonged to, epitaphs that reflect the way they mourned, and also more subtle reminders of their beliefs in the shapes of their markers. Be it a throw back to Egyptian or Greek or statuary for example that reflects the faith of the decedent, by walking through a cemetery we can learn a lot about the people who roamed this earth before us....

Monday, March 16, 2009


Welcome to the first post of the Graveyard Rabbit of the Triangle, NC! For those of you unfamiliar with Tobacco Road, the Triangle is made up of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill... with many other communities in between!

This blog will focus on the numerous graveyards that are scattered throughout this region. I give tours at Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh...which are primarily based on Monument Art and Symbolism. On occasion I have co-led a Victorian Death and Dying tour as well as a Valentine's Day Romance tour. Historic Oakwood was established in 1869 and is a fine example of a rural/garden cemetery.

Soon I'll be posting photos of interesting monuments from not only this cemetery but others in this area. I look forward to sharing them with you!

Have a great day!