Last month OHNY’s former intern, Ted, went back to visit his alma mater, the University of Rochester, for reunion weekend.  While there, he was lucky enough to take a tour of the famous Mount Hope Cemetery, the nation’s oldest municipally run cemetery.

Located in Rochester, NY, near the shores of Lake Ontario, the Mount Hope Cemetery is home to dozens of locally and nationally recognized figures, such as Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, John Jacob Bausch, Henry Lomb, and Rush Rhees.  The two hour tour, provided by The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, offers a meandering stroll through the nearly 200 acre property and visits some of its many notable residents.

From civil rights crusaders like Douglass and Anthony to the unmarked graves of incestuous murderers, the cemetery boasts a broad range of Rochester history.  Even the trees, many donated by the Ellwanger family (who helped earn Rochester the nickname “Flower City”) span the centuries with 150 year old Japanese Maples and Purple European Beeches.

Dennis Carr, one of the cemetery’s tour guides, explained that many visitors to the grounds will leave small totems such as rocks, coins, and keepsakes on the graves they visit.  Susan B. Anthony’s grave has yielded such interesting tokens as Sue B. dollars, N.O.W. pins, and voter registration cards.  Any unusual items left on graves are collected and archived by the Friends of Mount Hope.

The grounds of the cemetery were sculpted and shaped by the last passing glacier as it moved south over North America.  The resulting landscape is a far cry from the standard flat, evenly line cemeteries common to the United States.  Instead, Mount Hope has peaks and valleys, glacial pools, and secluded glens.  The graves and mausoleums are organically integrated into this dramatic setting, resulting in a sprawling labyrinthine park.

The tour stopped at several notable graves, including those of Anthony and Frederick Douglass.  At each stop, the guide offered historical anecdotes and interesting facts about the geography, the people, and the city.  From Susan B. Anthony’s stubborn and brazen arrest and trial to Frederick Douglass’ controversial second marriage.

The cemetery is home to 375,000 graves, many of which are marked with statues and obelisks.  Tours can be arranged through the Friends of Mount Hope website, or visitors can simply pick up a pocket guide to the cemetery at the gate house near the entrance.

Mount Hope Cemetery
791 Mount Hope Ave
Rochester, NY 14620

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