Mount Auburn Cemetery Adds New Pedestrians Gates in Effort to Welcome the Community

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Photo by Charlie Breitrose The opening of new pedestrian gates at Mount Auburn Cemetery was celebrated with a ribbon cutting. Pictured, from left, Mount Auburn Cemetery Trustee Sean McDonnell, Bree Harvey, Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services; Assistant City Manager Steve Magoon, State Rep. Steve Owens, Mount Auburn Cemetery President and CEO Matthew Stephens, and Cemetery neighbor Sarah Baker.

Mount Auburn Cemetery opened its gate to the public, literally, on Friday when they celebrated the four new pedestrian entrances installed along the fence around the historic cemetery located in Watertown and Cambridge.

Matthew Stephens, President and CEO of Mount Auburn Cemetery, said that the gates are part of Mount Auburn’s effort to make the property more open and welcoming to the public.

“We want the community to be here in Mount Auburn,” Stephens said. “We are the biggest green space in Watertown by 75 acres. The next closest is a private country club. We are open 365 days of the year for free.”

At the ribbon cutting for the new gates, State Rep. Steve Owens quoted Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” poem, which features the line “Good fences make good neighbors.”

“I’m here to celebrate the fact that our neighbor, Mount Auburn, took a little bit of their fence down and replaced it with an opening,” Owens said, who said that the cemetery is one of his favorite places, not just in his district but in Massachusetts.

“People are often surprised when I tell them that a cemetery is one of my favorite places but this is more than a cemetery,” Owens said. “This is a historic landmark, a garden, a living laboratory, a sculpture park, a wildlife refuge, and just a resource to Cambridge and Watertown, and to the region as a whole.”

Courtesy of Mount Auburn Cemetery The locations of the four new pedestrian gates at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

The City of Watertown has sought to open up some of the longstanding institutions in town that have traditionally been walled off, said Steve Magoon, Watertown’s Assistant City Manager for Community Development and Planning.

“We have been working with the current prop owners of the Arsenal on the Charles to make that a more porous facility and make that more welcoming to the community and inviting to the community,” Magoon said Friday. “And I think today’s event is another step in that effort of institutions like Mount Auburn Cemetery to be more open to the community and be more inviting.”

Stephens said the new gates also separate pedestrians from the vehicles entering the main gates.

“Yes we wanted to make it physically easier, but we also wanted to make it a safer and more calm experience for when you arrive at Mount Auburn,” Stephens said. “Entering through the portal, a lot of people get stressed in their first 5 to 10 seconds. That doesn’t set off for a great visitor experience. The hopes are to start and continue and end in a place of reflection or inspiration that this special place continues to provide.”

The quartet of pedestrian gates are located along Mt. Auburn Street, with a pair on each side of the vehicular portal. The custom-made cast-iron gates were designed by Boston architectural firm William Rawn Associates. Each gate has a different design using the leaves of trees in the cemetery: white oak, gingko, sugar maple, and American elm.

Mount Auburn Cemetery’s new pedestrian gate on Mt. Auburn Street near the split with Brattle Street in Cambridge.

Two more gates will be installed along the Grove Street side of Mount Auburn Cemetery, Stephens said. He expects them to be installed by the spring of 2025, at the latest.

Using the new gates, Stephens said he hopes that more people will be able to get away from the hustle bustle of their lives by visiting the Cemetery.

“I feel like if you come to Mount Auburn for the first time or the 1,000th time, you are thinking about your family, your job, all the things that we are juggling each day and then you get 10 feet in, then get 50 feet in, then you get 100 feet in. You have this urban chaos, cacophony of sirens and horns and trucks bouncing on asphalt that fades to birdsong, water, and wind through the leaves,” Stephens said. “And really that portal that everyone goes through when they visit here each day is something we’ve provided for over 190 years and we really look forward to provide for the next 190 years and beyond.”

One thought on “Mount Auburn Cemetery Adds New Pedestrians Gates in Effort to Welcome the Community

  1. Mount Auburn Cemetery is such a blessing for all the reasons Representative Owens states. For increasingly tree-canopy-bereft East Watertown, where I live, it has special importance.

    Trees are literally lifesavers in a city. Cleaning and oxygenating the air, gentling heavy winds and rainstorms, sucking up thousands of gallons of storm water annually, and providing significant neighborhood cooling, which is especially important as our summers see more days each year with temperatures over 90F — these services that big trees provide literally save lives.

    In the ideal case, East Watertown neighborhood streets and backyards would have plenty of big healthy trees, as they did when I moved here 45 years ago. But we’ve been losing our sheltering trees, one by one, for many years. With every big lost tree, there’s less beauty, less birdsong, and more punishing summer heat.

    In a few decades, with luck, the little trees planted today in streets and backyards will begin to replace the essential neighborhood canopy we have lost. In the meantime, we East Enders are blessed to be able to walk among the trees in Mount Auburn Cemetery and enjoy the deep pleasures and health benefits of a gorgeous 193-year-old urban forest.

    Thank you, Mount Auburn Cemetery, for maintaining this beautiful garden forest and for making it easier for your neighbors to access from Mt Auburn and Grove Streets!

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