Consecration Dell

Hidden behind the steep slopes that enclose it, the Dell is a 4.2-acre natural valley with a small vernal pool in its center. In striking contrast to the Cemetery’s otherwise manicured landscape, the Dell is reminiscent of the New England forest. Native woodland trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers provide year-round interest and provide essential food and shelter for resident and migratory wildlife.

About Consecration Dell

Waterbody/Interment Area/Landscape
4.2 Acre Natural Valley with a small vernal pool at its center.

Violet Path Hillside Restoration: 2022-ongoing
Woodland Restoration: 1997
The site of the cemetery's consecration on September 24th 1831

Of all the many spots within Mount Auburn, Consecration Dell has a special allure. Here, 1,600 feet from the Cemetery’s entrance, you can imagine history taking place, marvel at the beauty of nature, and find solace from the cares of the world in a woodland oasis.

In 1831 when the Massachusetts Horticultural Society purchased land in Watertown and Cambridge to create a "rural cemetery" and experimental garden, the property consisted of about 72 acres of mature woodland, which had been enjoyed for years by Harvard students and neighbors as a natural place of great beauty. The Dell was chosen as the site of the consecration ceremony held on September 24th 1831 because of its special natural and symbolic qualities. In his Consecration Address, Mount Auburn’s first president Joseph Story referenced the new Cemetery’s naturalistic qualities: “sheltered valley… silent grove… lofty oak… rustling pine… and the wildflower creeping along the narrow path.” 

Newspapers describe a crowd of more than 2,000 people who came from Boston and surrounding communities to participate in the dedication of this land to the burial and commemoration of the dead. Writers recounted how verdant the landscape was on this day and what a "soft scene" it presented to the visitors. Many 19th-century authors called on their readers to remember that is a useful practice for the living to pick a choice spot of earth for their own burial and offered a view of Consecration Dell as inspiration.

The Dell embodies all that is magical, rejuvenating, and special about Mount Auburn. Visit in the spring to experience the Dell in peak bloom with a chorus of birds providing a natural soundtrack. Retreat beneath its dense shade on a warm summer day to discover its quiet tranquility. In the fall, take in its jewel-toned colors and see the Cemetery as its earliest visitors might have.

... the music of the thousand voices which joined the hymn, as it swelled in chastened melody from the bottom of the glen, and like the spirit of devotion, found an echo in every heart."

Consecration ceremony, Boston Courier, 1831
Joseph Story's Consecration Address

Joseph Story's Consecration Address

An address delivered on the dedication of the cemetery at Mount Auburn, September 24th, 1831.

Joseph Story’s Consecration Address

Woodland Restoration: Consecration Dell

Woodland Restoration: Consecration Dell

In 1997 the Cemetery began an ambitious project to return Consecration Dell to a naturalistic woodland. Today the landscape, with new native plantings, is maintained as the last vestige of the early rural cemetery and an important habitat for urban wildlife.

Woodland Restoration: Consecration Dell