A Message from the President & CEO

June 1, 2020

Dear Mount Auburn Cemetery Community,

I am pleased to announce the first step in the Cemetery’s phased re-opening, which will follow Governor Baker’s guidelines for reopening Massachusetts.  

Effective today, June 1st, our gates will be open each day from 12pm to 7pm.  During these open hours, we will welcome ALL VISITORS. 

We ask that everyone respect our rules and preserve the sanctity of the Cemetery. Additional signs have been placed prominently to remind visitors of our rules. 

In compliance with state guidelines, all visitors and staff will still be required to wear face coverings anywhere on the grounds whenever maintaining proper social distancing is not possible.  For the health and safety of our staff working on the grounds, I sincerely hope that all visitors will follow the social distancing and face covering protocols when interacting with any of our staff members.  They have been working very hard, under challenging circumstance in small crews and rotating shifts, to maintain the grounds and prepare for re-opening.  

All buildings, including the Administration Building and the Greenhouse, will remain closed to the public.  Washington Tower will also remain closed. The public restrooms at Story Chapel will be open, but with new signs and restrictions in accordance with the state re-opening requirements.  

Many of our staff who have been working remotely from home will continue to do so, as we follow the guidance outlined in the Massachusetts reopening plan that limits office occupancy to no more than 25% capacity.  

We are all looking forward to the day we can fully re-open the Cemetery for our normal hours to carry out our multiple roles as an active cemetery, arboretum, historic landscape, outdoor museum, nature sanctuary, and urban green space.  For now, however, we will continue to closely follow the state guidelines for re-opening in a deliberate and carefully phased manner.  Please visit www.mountauburn.org/coronavirus to stay abreast of all updates as we begin to offer more of our core services and programs.  I look forward to seeing many of you walking around the grounds of Mount Auburn, and I hope you recognize me with my facemask on.  

Take care and be safe,

Dave Barnett

President & CEO, Mount Auburn Cemetery

Read previous messages from Dave Barnett:

May 18, 2020

Dear Mount Auburn Cemetery Community, 

I write today to share the newest changes in our daily operations as we navigate these challenging times together. These changes are the first step in a phased plan to resume all “normal” activity at the Cemetery.

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Effective immediately:

-The hours for families to visit graves are extended from 4:00 to 7:00 PM every day.

-During these grave visitation hours, we welcome and encourage families to experience the serenity and beauty of Mount Auburn by taking a walk through the grounds. I do remind everyone, however, to respect our rules and preserve the sanctity of the Cemetery.

-All visitors and staff are still required to wear face coverings anywhere on the grounds.

-The public restrooms remain closed.

Next Monday, we will observe Memorial Day, a very important day on the Cemetery’s calendar. To accommodate a greater number of families making visits to Mount Auburn, we will be open for grave visitation from 1:00 to 7:00 PM this coming Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We will have a limited number of flags available at the Entrance Gate. Our greenhouses, however, remain closed to the public. Flower tributes made of natural plant material are welcome on the grounds if you would like to bring something with you to leave at a grave. 

Other operational changes will be introduced in a phased manner that follows the guidance outlined in the Massachusetts re-opening plan just released by Governor Baker. We are absorbing the details of the new state-wide plan along with the recommendations of local health and public safety officials. We are working to finalize changes in our operations beyond Memorial Day, and will be announcing those plans as soon as we have them determined. 

These times are challenging, to say the least, for everyone in the region and beyond. Here at Mount Auburn, our challenges include setting the right priorities and finding the right balance as we carry out our multiple roles as an active cemetery, arboretum, historic landscape, outdoor museum, nature sanctuary, and urban green space. 

The closure of our gates to the general public has allowed us to prioritize the safety and comfort of the families coming to the Cemetery for burials and cremations. Over the past several weeks, we experienced a significant increase in demand for these services. I want to thank you for your patience as we worked to make these tragic circumstances a bit easier for each and every family we served during this time.

We have also prioritized the safety of our staff, who continued their essential work throughout the pandemic. To ensure that our staff remains healthy, we have been rotating two different interment crews – comprised partially of horticulture and preservation staff members – on alternate weeks to keep up with the increase in casket burials. Our custodial and facilities staff have played a key role keeping everything sanitized between shifts. Since the start of April, our horticulture staff have been working in small crews on rotating shifts. All staff are wearing face coverings, are not sharing equipment, and are abiding by all social distancing and safety protocols. After being forced to delay the start of so many spring clean-up and gardening tasks, the grounds are now looking beautiful due to the hard work and dedication of our amazing staff.  

I have been working from home (and participating in lots of Zoom meetings!), like so many of our staff, planning for the year ahead and adapting to a “new normal.” After experiencing the last 27 spring seasons working at Mount Auburn and walking the spectacular grounds every day, it has been extremely difficult for me to stay home. On Mother’s Day, normally one of our busiest days of the year, I spent the day at Mount Auburn to assist our security staff in monitoring the grounds. While we were indeed very busy, all went smoothly. It was gratifying to see so many families paying tribute to Mom. I took this photo of the native Flowering Dogwoods in full bloom at Willow Pond that day.  

Now that Massachusetts is beginning a phased plan to gradually re-open beyond essential businesses, I know I speak for the entire staff and Board of Trustees to say that we look forward to being able to open the Cemetery to the general public and welcome all visitors to come and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Mount Auburn. We will continue to join our area colleagues in following the advice of our health and government agencies and will only make this change when we have taken all appropriate steps to ensure the safety of our staff, clients, and visitors. 

Please bear with us for a bit longer as we finalize our plans for introducing more of our core services and expanding visitation to the general public. We will have more to share soon. In the meantime, please be sure to take advantage of our online content and explore Mount Auburn virtually

Take care and be safe, 

Dave Barnett 

President & CEO
Mount Auburn Cemetery 

White Flowering Dogwood tree in peak bloom on bank of Willow Pond.

April 9, 2020

Dear Mount Auburn Cemetery Community,

I hope this finds you safe and well. I am reaching out to share some updates as we strive to navigate this challenging time together.

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I know that for many of us, the Cemetery is a place of solace, tranquility and beauty. It was thus a difficult decision to close our gates when Governor Baker issued a stay-at-home advisory. In the days leading up to our closure, we were increasingly over-run with visitors. The closure of area schools, parks, playgrounds, and all non-essential businesses brought many new visitors through our gates, and unfortunately many of these visitors were not respecting social distancing protocols or the sanctity of the Cemetery.

Please know that although our gates are closed, we continue to provide essential burial and cremation services. In fact, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for these services. We are prioritizing the safety and comfort of the families whom we are are assisting. To keep everyone safe, graveside services are kept to less than ten people and memorial services are being postponed until a later date. To provide families and mourners the opportunity to visit the graves of their loves ones, we are opening the Mount Auburn Street gate between 4:00 and 6:00 PM every day.

We also continue to do all that we can to protect our staff so that they can provide these essential services for families and maintain our grounds during this pandemic. We are rotating staff in small crews on alternating days and abiding by all social distancing and safety protocols. Many of our staff are working remotely and carrying out many important tasks to prepare us for the year ahead. All staff are being paid in full for their regularly scheduled hours.

Now is the time to remain disciplined in our practice of social distancing. As the expected “surge” occurs here in Massachusetts, we are committed to doing our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the impacts on our regional healthcare system. We join our area colleagues as we continue to follow the advice of our health and government agencies.

Thank you for your understanding during these unprecedented times. We look forward to welcoming you back to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Mount Auburn when we can safely do so. I for one, look forward to the day I can once again lead walking tours around the grounds, as in the photo below. In the meantime, please visit this page often to stay abreast of any updates and feel free to explore our virtual content online. 

Take care and be safe,

Dave Barnett
President & CEO, Mount Auburn Cemetery

President Dave Barnett leads a spring walking tour.

March 28, 2020

Dear Mount Auburn Cemetery Community,

On March 13th we implemented several changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect our staff, volunteers, members, visitors, and clients. Our Visitors Center, Chapels, Greenhouse, and Administrative Offices have since been closed to the general public. We cancelled public programs. We suspended all memorial services and postponed the scheduling of pre-need sales appointments until further notice. Despite these other changes, we have continued to assist families at their critical time of need by providing essential burial and cremation services.

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Until now, our grounds have also remained open to the public between 8 AM and 6 PM each day to provide a much-needed place of comfort, tranquility and inspiration to all. It has been wonderful to see so many people appreciating and utilizing Mount Auburn in this way.

I am sorry to say that we can no longer remain open to the public. We are facing a public health crisis and the health and safety of our staff as well as our entire community must take priority. As of March 30, the Cemetery will be closed, except for burial services, until 4:00 PM every day. We will open the Mount Auburn Street Gate between 4:00 and 6:00 PM each day to provide an opportunity for families to visit the graves of their loved ones.

With our gates closed for much of the day, our staff will be able to safely provide essential cemetery services and maintain our grounds even during this pandemic. Rest assured that they will be working in small crews and abiding by all social distancing and safety protocols. Our staff that can work remotely will remain working from home to carry out the many important tasks that prepare us for the year ahead.

We look forward to welcoming visitors for their daily walks once we have flattened the curve and can safely allow everyone back to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Mount Auburn. In the meantime, please stay tuned for our April e-newsletter, where we will announce virtual opportunities for staying connected to the Cemetery this spring. We will also continue to communicate updates and changes to our daily operations on our website.

Best wishes,

Dave Barnett
President & CEO, Mount Auburn Cemetery

Grant Award for Washington Tower Preservation Assessment

May 29, 2020

The Friends of Mount Auburn has received a $15,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (MCFF) for a preservation assessment of our beloved Washington Tower. Built in 1854, the 62-foot-tall Tower sits at the highest point of the Cemetery and offers some of the best views of Boston and Cambridge around. If we want to guarantee that we can keep it open to the public for many more years to come, it will require structural repairs, restoration of elaborate wood window tracery, improvements to the lighting system, and handicapped accessibility.

With that in mind, an official preservation assessment is our first step in the process. Funded in part by this Feasibility and Technical Assistance Grant from the MCFF, we have hired the award-winning architectural firm McGinley Kalsow & Associates to produce a detailed analysis on how best to preserve the Tower. Their assessment, options for repair and improvements, and estimated budgets will support planning for a full restoration, which will follow in a few years.

You can be part of this important first step towards preserving the Tower too! The MCFF grant requires a dollar-to-dollar match in order to receive the funding, and we are already two-thirds of the way towards completing it. Please make a gift at https://mountauburn.org/give/special-projects/ and help us raise the rest of the funding we need to get started. Thank you for your support of this iconic landmark.

Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia

May 28, 2020

The mountain laurel in bloom

Constructed like needlework

Tiny half-pulled stitches piercing

Flushed and striped petals…

                                                            -Adrienne Rich

Mountain LaurelKalmia latifolia has long been regarded as one of our finest, flowering, native shrubs. This is a broad-leaf evergreen par excellence.  In June, its ribbed flower buds are a deep-pink, opening to pale pink, or white, cup-shaped flowers.  Most often, these flowers are at the terminal end of branches, creating an effusive floral display. Take a close look at these flowers, which have an artful, pollinating mechanism.  The five fused petals, which Rich alludes to as being stitched, surround ten stamens, the male reproductive parts. At the end of each stamen are the tiny dark-colored anthers, possessing the pollen.   Notice how the petals are indented, holding the anthers, with the stamens bent back under tension. When a bee, or other insect, lands, the stamen is catapulted, with a mousetrap-like response, increasing the successful rate of pollen covered bees/insects, hence greater cross pollination. Nature’s engineering at work, right before your eyes. (more…)