Thaler Hefel began work at the end of December to rebuild the stone wall that borders the Route 1 side of the West Grounds.
The granite ball topping the right gatepost had been missing for many years after a truck backed into the column. In November, a replacement ball that was hand sculpted by Dylan Breault (in the red hat) under the direction of Rich Brooks (standing on the truck) , owner of Buzzi Memorials. Board member Rob Simmons is steadying the ladder.Photographer, Tim Martin, of the Westerly Sun is recordig the event. The replacement of the ball was an important symbolic accomplishment for the Cemetery Association as it signified the renewal efforts underway since 2015. The Westerly Sun article by Jason Vallee can be found here.
At the end of December, Pawcatuck Roofing replaced the wood shingles on the remaining two sides of the Hearse House. Remaining improvements included a fence connecting the east ends of the buildings and some painting.
Local writer Steve Slosberg conducted a tour of Poets Corner last May that was sponsored by the Mystic River Historical Society. In addition to more well know writers, the poets James Merrill and Stephen Vincent Benet, Slosberg pointed out less well know burials like Gaillard Laipsley who was Edith Wharton's friend and literary executor. Steve has contributed to the Westerly Sun, New London, Mystic River Press, Connecticut Magazine and the Stonington Historical Society Footnotes.
Steve recently saw the publication of a collection of his work: "Columnist: 45 years of Having a Say" that includes pieces on a number of notable people buried in the cemetery. Notes from the May talk are here.
Newer burial areas are being carefully gridded and measured by Craig Czaja who will install numbered markers for each plot. Once the numbered pins are in place in November, the wood stakes will be removed. This is a much needed system to insure good record keeping.
A lilac bed has been installed on Hyde Avenue near the Palmer Mausoleum courtesy of a donor. Previously this little area had been overgrown with a unsightly jumble of volunteer shrubs.
Ugly eyesores were removed this year. The beauty in in what you cannot see. Upwards of 16 trees have been removed with a dozen more to be more to be cut. This is long overdue two-year maintenance expenditure. Over 35 stumps were removed. Many were older eyesores from earlier years. Those areas have been seeded and will disappear. Neglected family plantings were pruned. Plot sinkings were filled and seeded. None of these improvements stand out individually. Collectively, they contribute to a more aesthetic and safer environment.
You can download our FALL 2020 Newsletter
for more information.
The Billings Mausoleum has been neglected for over a century. The current state of disrepair and instability threatens the future of this beloved landmark. It's time plan for restoration.
In 2020, the State Office of Historic Preservation provided grant funds for an engineering survey to evaluate the current condition of this iconic structure and to provide an approach for restoration including cost estimates. The written report was delivered to us in November and can be viewed here. The cost to stabilize and restore the exterior of the structure will cost at least $1,000,000 The survey didn't include the stained glass, now boarded over, or any interior restoration.
The West Grounds comprises several acres located across N. Main Street from the main cemetery grounds and was once part of the same historic farm property. The Cemetery Association purchased the land in 2001 when it was zoned for cemetery use. In 2020, the Cemetery Association signed a contract with Reed-Hilderbrand, an award winning landscape architectural firm, to plan for gradual preparation of the West Grounds for
plot sales and burial. The plans will take advantage of the beautiful natural setting extends from N. Main Street to the cove and through creative designs make few changes to it. The goal is to retain the natural beauty of the landscape. The community will be part of the planning.
Monument Cleaning continued during the summer of 2020. Bob Suppicich along with helpers from the Keena family erected scaffolding to clean the tallest obelisks and Atwood Colonnade. These beautiful, now restored, monuments are testament to the grandeur of our grounds and the wealth of the community during the late 19th and early 20th century.
In addition, many headstones were righted. Some of the work was performed by contractors, Czaja brothers and some by volunteer efforts by Bob Suppicich with help from Elliott Shaw.
In August of this year, Gene Anderson with the help of his brother, John, went to work restoring the second of our work buildings - the "Hearse House." The smaller of our two work buildings was probably the oldest structure on the grounds dating from the mid-18th century. It is a post and beam structure made up re-used parts from earlier structures. Sadly, this is one of
IGene Anderson's last projects. Gene was a consummate craftsman who respected and understood antique structures and worked to preserve them. In the 1990's he participated with lowering the stained glass dome in the Billings Mausoleum and encasing it in a protective wood cage.
This area behind the work sheds was filled and leveled during the summer with fill donated by the Town of Stonington arranged with the cooperation of Danielle Cheesebrough and Tim Keena. This project greatly improves the appearance of the area and will provide much needed new space for burials.