Thursday, July 30, 2009

Westwood Baptist Memorial

Here is a look at my trip to Westwood Baptist Memorial Cemetery

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Westwood Baptist Memorial Cemetary Walkabout

For my walkabout I went to a small cemetery tucked between two buildings on Harrison Avenue in Cheviot (on the westside of town). Even though I had driven past it many times it never really stood out to me because no one ever seemed to be there or pay much attention to it. The fence to get in was caved in and did not open anymore so you literally had to jump the fence to get in. The nicest memorial was a new one placed right in front that had the name Westwood Baptist Memorial written on it. The cemetery is right in the middle of the heart of Cheviot yet, it seems unnoticed by the many busy people who drive and walk by it on a daily basis. It had no more than 35 graves and the majority of them were very small and worn away. The dates ranged in the early to late 1800's and most of the gravestones were simple without much iconography. I was able to see four large memorials with some symbols that I was able to make out such as the rose, a hand of a man and a woman holding each other, a cherub with wings and an urn with a veil draped over it. After doing some research I was able to find out that most of the people buried there were some of the first pioneers to come to Cheviot from many other parts of the country and abroad. The founder of Cheviot was a man by the name of John Craig and his wife Jennet. They founded Cheviot in 1818 and named it after the hills in their homeland of Edinburgh, Scotland. It used to be the biggest cemetery in Cheviot until Harrison Avenue was built right through the center of it causing some of the stones to be lost. Even after the original damage the cemetery was left there however, it was then split into two different cemeteries facing each other. It remained this was until the population grew and the other half of the cemetery was turned into a parking lot and the remains of those who once lied there were reintered and moved to Bridgetown Protestant Cemetery a few blocks down the road. The remains of the Craigs are still located at the original site along with their two sons who both lost their lives at the very young ages of 15 & 17 to a freak lightening accident and their daughter Jennet who was married to a Lewis and died at the young age of 19. It seems both parents outlived all their children as Jennet lived to be 59 and John lived to be 77. When looking through some of the records I found online most of the people buried there could somehow be connected to one another. It was like a puzzle trying to figure out their ties. The grass still seems to be getting cut and it appears that Cheviot itself is responsible for the up keeping however, several of the gravestones had been broken and knocked over yet, left in this manner. While I was there several kids came out and asked if I was taking pictures because I was going to buy the lot. I could not find out any information as to why they thought this but, after researching online it seems that there may be the possibility that the remainder of the original cemetery may also be moved. It is definitely no longer an active cemetery and may soon no longer even remain in it's original location. It was kind of sad to think that the original cemetery in Cheviot may no longer be there anymore and that those who first founded the little town were in a way being moved out. There were no flowers on any graves or anything that gave me the vibe that there were living family members still visiting past generations of their relatives. All in all, I found the experience rather interesting yet sad. It showed me that sometimes no matter how important you once were or the memory you want to leave behind one day, you will still be forgotten. It made me think of the Kansas song "Dust in the Wind" and left me pondering the more philosophical view of death and the after-life. Who do we become when all those who once cared for us are no longer around either? Will we all one day be forgotten?

Reflection on the Tram ride around Spring Grove

This week was probably one of my favorite weeks thus far. I felt like we were able to just relax, take a step back and really take in the view around us. I was amazed at how big the cemetery was and how different each location was from the ones around it. It seemed as if we entered several different worlds throughout our tour. Being able to just sit back gave me the chance to think things through and really collect all my thoughts from the past few weeks. Each section of the cemetery seemed to have it's own essence about it and gave me something new to consider and learn from it. Although I have truly enjoyed seeing the old graves because they leave us with such a mystery in mind, I have to say taking the ride through the new location was really interesting. I feel like having taken this class I really pay more attention to the beauty that can be seen in cemeteries and I find myself pondering questions about the messages being left behind by those who have passed on. I enjoyed seeing the new and beautiful monuments and all the more modern techniques used to symbolize the lives of those who passed away. One of my favorite things was the use of leaving simple messages such as "Gone Fishing". It made me smile thinking about a person I had never met rather than being left with a sad image. I feel like more and more we are trying to leave a "feel good essence" behind rather than a "morbid creepy essence" and I feel that is a great leap for how we are all left to picture the after-life. I also really liked the ride through the woodland area. It was very peaceful and it took you away from the idea that you were in a cemetery. I think it is wonderful that in an industrial society such as this one that they decided to leave a connection to the past untouched for the many generations to experience. It is safe to say that each week I am left to feel more and more comfortable exploring the cemetery. It feels less like a creepy place and more like a story book filled with amazing art and mysteries to be uncovered.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Response to last weeks Tour and Grave Rubbings

I feel like last week was another interesting and informative week. I really enjoyed the tree memorial we were able to see and learn about. I learned so much from the symbols on it, even very surprising things such as squirrels symbolizing Satan. I would have never thought that in a million years. It just shows how much there really is to learn and understand about iconography in cemeteries. I also realized that I am the farthest thing from an artist. I was absolutely awful at the grave rubbings. I think I got more chalk on me than on my paper. Oops! Just another learning experience for me I guess. With each passing week I am able to make connections to all the things I see from the prior week so, it is nice to be able to continue gaining knowledge on the subject. I have found that I am much more interested in this subject than I ever thought I would be. I have even been teaching family and friends. They think I am a little weird but, hey I have always been the kind of person who knows random knowledge!

Spring Grove Cemetery Uncovered

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Uncovering the mysteries behind Jacob Hoffner's Monument

When attempting to decide what monument I wanted to research I had no idea which one to choose. I decided to go back to Spring Grove and drive around until I saw one that stuck out to me. I drove until I realized I was lost (of course I had no map) and that's when I saw the monument that struck my curiosity. It was perched high on top of a mountain. Two lions seemed to looking down the hill guarding the steps leading to the ancient memorial. I started up the hill and when I reached the lions a sign engraved in the giant stone stated Jacob Hoffner Family Lot. Although the name sounded familiar I had no idea who he was but, I was sure curious to find out. I continued on up the steps until I reached a large memorial standing about 30 feet high. Laid at the bottom of the memorial was a book that had a message engraved dedicating the memorial to Jacob Hoffner's wife Elizabeth and children. Around the memorial in the grass were many other headstones of family members who had also passed away. As I walked around gazing at the memorial many things caught my attention. The memorial was very old so, some of the symbols had been worn away and the statue of the lady had not only begun turning black but, had also been broken in many spots. Much to my surprise when I got home and began researching Jacob Hoffner I found out some very interesting information that connected him to close and familiar places such as U.C. and Italy, a country close to my heart because of my heritage. It turns out Jacob Hoffner was a rather mysterious figure, little-known and little remembered. He was born on August 4, 1799 and died on April 8, 1894 at the age of 96 from pneumonia. He was a real estate mogul who was noted for his elaborate gardens and statuarys both inside and outside his home in Cincinnati. During a trip to Italy he visited Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence where he first fell in love with the lions. He requested a smaller version for his own home, which now grace his memorial. After his passing the University of Cincinnati requested to have two of the lions grace their McMicken Hall in 1904. There "Mick & Mack" still stand tall today. The old wives tale is that Mick and Mack will come to life and roar whenever a virgin passes by. Who would have thought! Jacob Hoffner now has a park named after him located at the corner of Blue Rock and Hamilton Avenue as well as a street in Northside, not too far from his burial ground. As I continued to uncover pieces of Mr. Hoffner's life I thought back to memorial and all of the symbols that lined it. I knew they had a story to tell but, I was at a loss as to what a lot of them meant. When I researched the symbols in my Stories in Stone book I discovered a lot of underlying meanings. The lions gracing the stairs leading to the memorial stand for courage, majesty and strength. They also symbolize the resurrection because of the belief that lion cubs were born dead but, came to life after three days when they were breathed on by a male lion. The three days is a connection to the Christian Faith symbolizing the days it took for Christ to resurrect. One of the lions had a very saddened look on his face which could symbolize grief, loss and sadness for the loss of a loved one. This may have ties to his beliefs and religion. Out of the many monuments I saw at Spring Grove high on top of mountains his was the only one that had steps leading up to it. I started thinking of the symbolism to the steps and the first thing that popped in my head was Led Zepplin's song Stairway to Heaven. I wonder if they were put there symbolize his climb into heaven and the idea that angels come down to guide you to paradise. The memorial was topped with seven tall vertices's which I related to the seven virtues. Inside the memorial stood a statue of a woman draped in a long dress in which she held many different types of flowers. She wore a crown that seemed to be made of ivy and flowers and above her was a wreath that seemed to have assorted flowers and nuts hidden in the ivy. Because of the fact that ivy is eternally green even in harsh conditions it symbolizes immortality and fidelity. Since it clings to a support it also shows the idea of friendship, attachment and undying affection. It's three pointed leaves makes it a symbol of the holy trinity as well. The other flowers appeared to be roses, poppies, lillies, pansies, and oak leaves. Each flower has a special meaning. The roses are a symbol of longevity and beauty and are known as the queen of flowers so, maybe they were trying to leave a beautiful message of who they were forever. The poppies are symbolizing sleep and death and the lillies are attributing the idea that one is casting off earthly things to attain spiritual and heavenly qualities. The calla lillies are a possible symbol of the love and devotion shared between Jacob and Elizabeth his wife. The pansy is interesting because of the fact that it is also known as the heartsease because it is shaped like a heart. This connects the idea of remembrance and being able to hear the thoughts of a loved one who has passed away. It gives the essence that one will still be able to be close to a loved one who has passed on. The oak leaf has many different important meanings including strength, endurance, eternity, honor, liberty, hospitality, faith and virtue. The wreath that hangs above the statue of the woman is in the shape of a circle which gives the idea of a circle of life. The statue of the woman has a sad expression on her face which makes us feel as if she is grieving the loss of someone. Although I am uncertain who she is depicting I get the idea that she is a Greek goddess. She seems like a very simple woman with a natural beauty which tells us a little bit about what Hoffner found beautiful in life. Although he was rich he always looked for beauty in the simple things in life such as art and gardens. His memorial definitely gives you the idea of who he was, what he did in life and the things he appreciated. Overall, the monument was very intriguing and really told a story. I am finally learning a deeper meaning of what a cemetery represents and it has really shown me a whole different meaning to not only life but, also the after life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflecting Back

Yesterday's class was truly amazing. I felt like not only were a lot of my mystery questions answered but, I was able to open my eyes to a whole new world, a world of those who had passed away but still found ways to teach us about who they were many years after their lives ended. Being on a tour with an actual speaker who was able to give us insight put a whole new spin on why we were actually taking this class and made me feel like I could start seeing the cemetery as a book or story to someones' life and legacy they wanted to leave behind rather than a creepy place with "ghosts". I learned a lot about what all the symbols on the mausoleums and sculptures meant and it really intrigued me to see how much could be said about a person's life in such an artistic and symbolic manner. It really was like breaking a secret code. My two favorite parts of the tour were Fleischmann's "Greek Parthenon" and the stained glass window of the three Moerae who hold the fate of all humans in Greek mythology and the story behind Lt. William Lytle and his family. I was really touched by the monument that stood at his grave. It was so symbolic and very touching to see the many parts that bring together what his life was about, especially the symbolic saddened eagle. I had noticed that monument the first week and it stood out in my mind so, actually learning about it's meaning was really interesting. I started seeing the monuments as more than wonderful works of art but, pieces of someones life being put together. The entire experience truly opened my eyes to looking deeper into what one sees and discovering the true true meaning behind it. To me, a cemetery is no longer just a place to bury a loved one and visit as a sign of respect but, it is a close connection to our history without actually having been there. So far, I have learned that just like you should never judge a book by it's cover, I find that a cemetery is much the same. It's like jumping into one of the best history books and going back in time. It is not just a place of sorrow but, a place of remembrance, beauty, knowledge and a way to unlock some of life's most amazing mysteries. I am no longer questioning the small things but, finally starting to see the bigger picture. This class has really brought about a curiosity and passion in me that I never thought I had. I look forward to learning more in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Cemetary Honors Paper

Cemetery…A resting burial ground, a sacred and religious location or a dark and gloomy fearful spot
When I think about what a cemetery means to me and how I feel about it, several different things come to mind. Growing up I was always taught to pay my respects by doing the sign of the cross each time I passed a graveyard because of my Italian culture and religion but, I must admit it was a scary and eerie place for me and it was always something I had trouble understanding. The thought that “dead people” lay beneath the ground was a mystery to me and I was terrified by it. I remember thinking and feeling how awful it must be for the people in the coffins. I was very naive to the fact that only their body lies there but, that their soul had moved on. Every time I went to visit someone at the cemetery with my family I knew I had to be quiet and respectful and that it was a place of mourning and private intimate moments for family and friends of those who had passed on. Today, I carry much of the same feelings as far as respect and privacy go. Every time I drive into a cemetery I make sure to have my radio turned down, drive slowly through and not make a mockery of those buried there by laughing, speaking loudly or showing other signs of disrespect. Sadly, many times I watch people act out in cemeteries and I wonder how one could act in such a manner in such an important place. When I was younger and I started hearing of people having weddings and picnics in cemeteries I felt very disturbed by the idea. As I have grown older and my perspectives have matured and changed I have started seeing cemeteries in a different light. Although my views on respect have never changed, I have started seeing it as less of a dark, gloomy place where only sadness occurs and more of a place where resurrection and happiness can begin. Although I have always felt that once a loved one has passed on you can talk to them anywhere, being near their place of burial makes sense to me now-a-days. I have started seeing it as a way to be closer to them in a sense, and a way to still feel as if they are part of the life still going on around you. I feel the way we are raised and the experiences we have through our lives ultimately mold the opinions we have on everything, including how we feel and perceive cemeteries. Today, I am able to feel a sense of comfort each time I visit a family member. Being in the cemetery now-a-days can be so peaceful and sometimes it even allows me to escape the stress of everyday life and take a deep breath to realize the important things and throw away the petty life obstacles. I am inspired to feel closer to not only my loved ones but, to God as well and no feeling is more powerful than to know your loved ones are now in the hands of such a loving an amazing God. Although, at times I still catch myself feeling uncertain of my feelings when I am in a cemetery alone, especially at night, I now realize this as being part of a normal human response and I try to take a step back and not think of the material idea behind a cemetery but rather the spiritual and emotional connection that I can experience each time I visit a loved one. Being able to walk into a cemetery without the eerie fears has allowed me to feel much more at ease and given me the chance to remember my loved ones in a way where they can be honored and know they will never be forgotten and nothing could make me feel more grateful than that.

Our Pictures and questions from our 1st walkaround

1. Is there any meaning to the Ivy growing in patterns on the ground?

2. Why are so many monuments in the same shape (the tall and pointed tops)? What does this symbolize?

3. Why are the doors to the house-like monuments with many family members bolted and locked shut even though the doors are ones unable to be opened?

4. What does the G symbol with two arrows around it mean?

5. Who were the Harrison's, there are so many of them buried together?

6. What does the wooden arch mean?

7. There was a double stacked coffin burial stone. Why was this made this way? Was it redone because it had worn away or because another person was buried there?

8. Is it disrespectful to sit on the bench-type monuments?

9. Who was Ottomar Topff? Is this his picture?

10. What are the wooden planks on the ground and what do they mean?

11. Why are there such grand monuments for some people? Were they famous or rich if they had large memorials?

12. What does this burial mean? Is this supposed to symbolize a doorway to somewhere?

13. What is the meaning behind the art on the Leon Van Loo monument?

14. What does F.G. Fore mean? Why was it on several graves?

15. Why do some graves only have initials, or first names or titles written on them such as Mamma without other defining characteristics in order to know who was buried there?

16. What do the leaves on house-like monument mean? Are they symbolic to the family or do they have some general special meaning?

17. Do the angels on some of the graves symbolize what the person may have done in their lives? Some are of guardian angels and some are of warrior angels?

18. Are the bodies of those in the house-like monuments buried in the walls of the structure?

19. What does perpetual care mean? It was on several burial sites?

20. What does the symbol that looks like the star of David mean when it has the letters O, E, and S next to it?

21. Are the leaves around the tree stump monuments just for beauty or do they represent something more?

22. Who was Samuel Davis Jr.?

23. Who was Daniel Drake?

24. Were all the Drakes who were buried together family?

25. Who is Charles Davis?

26. What does the little lamb on graves mean? Does this mean a child is buried here?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our First Adventure at Spring Grove Cemetery

During my first adventure at Spring Grove I was able to pair up with a long time friend from Nursing school so, I was pretty excited. I must say when we set out to our destination I had no idea what to expect and I was a little unsure how to feel about it. My great grandparents are buried in one of the Mausoleum's at Spring Grove and I knew it was a beautiful cemetery but, I really had not taken the time to walk around and look at other memorials and burial stones. Kelly and I were able to see all kinds of different stones and really take the time to analyze each one we came across. There were several really important people we had set out to find and it was exciting when we finally found them to read about them and realize we were standing where someone great had been buried. We came across The Harrison's, The Drake's and the McGuffey's. I later researched some very interesting stories about these families. I found out about Dr. Drake who had made a huge impact on our city becoming a well known physician and writer who even founded the Medical College of Ohio and Alexander McGuffey who had been a co-writer of the McGuffey readers, some of the best known educational school books in American History during the 19th century.We came across some very interesting designs on the stones, some of which we only saw once and some of which we saw many times over. It was the very first time I had walked around and taken the time to not only look at other's burial stones but, actually take the time to wonder why things were the way they were. We spent time looking at the big memorials where entire families were buried inside and it gave us an almost eerie feeling to look inside the cold tombs and see the many names written inside. It was amazing to me to see all the stones and how they were literally in every nook and cranny. The majority of them seemed as if they had been kept up but, others were almost lost under the overgrown grass and dirt. At times I felt at peace looking through all the beautiful stones and other times I had a cold shiver come over me. It was certainly a very interesting experience and one I am grateful for because it started me on a journey to looking further into what a cemetery is all about and not just the scary appeal we grew up believing in.