Improving our Entry

June 30, 2015

A series of projects underway at our Entry will greatly improve the experience of entering Mount Auburn for our families, clients, and visitors. Learn more about the many projects happening in our Entry from the interactive photo and the text below.


We are in the midst of a multi-year project to restore our Egyptian Revival Gateway. During the first phase of the project we concentrated on the restoration of the iron fence and gates that flank either side of the granite structure.  Cassidy Brothers Forge, specialists in fine wrought ironwork, removed our historic iron fence and finished a complete restoration at their Cassidy Brothers’ shop in Rowley, MA. The restored fence and auto gates were returned in the spring of 2016. Learn more about the project here >>

In June 2016 we will begin the second phase of our Entrance Gateway and cast iron fence preservation project.  With the fence work 90 % complete, we are excited to turn our attention to the Egyptian Revival Gatehouse structure which is in need of repair and maintenance.  We will begin by cleaning the building of biological growth and general soiling prior to cutting out 100% of the mortar joints in the granite stonework.  Minor losses of stone will be repaired with dutchman stone repairs utilizing matching Quincy granite salvaged from shattered granite curbing.  Next we will repoint the joints with a mortar that matches the existing mortar in color and texture as closely as possible.  The roof of the structure consists of solid granite slabs that require flexible sealants where the slabs join together.  The old, cracked sealant will be removed, replaced with new, and capped with lead “T” flashing to extend the longevity of the work. New downspouts will help remove water from the alcove roofs to the ground.  Finally the cracked and deteriorating concrete floors will be replaced new floors, finished to match the texture of the existing weathered concrete.

For visitor safety this work will require that we install a construction fence around the entire building, thus temporarily closing the computer kiosk and the center walk-in gate to public use.  Much of our visitor  information that is currently available at the Gatehouse, including maps to the Cemetery, will be temporarily moved to other public locations near the entrance.

Support for this project has come from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, a program of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts administered through a collaborative arrangement between Mass Development and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a City of Cambridge Historical Commission Community Preservation Act grant, Cambridge Savings Bank, and The Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust.


In July 2015, work began on on a new  path connecting Asa Gray Garden and Lawn Avenue with Story Chapel.  The new path and its associated seating areas,  completed in Fall 2015 provide a clear visual and functional connection between the Chapel and Asa Gray Garden while separating pedestrians from vehicles at this busy and confusing intersection.

A significant private gift is enabling us to complete this project as part of our visitor entry experience improvements.


Under the direction of consulting landscape architect Craig Halvorson (Halvorson Design Partnership), a new landscape more fitting of an institution world-renowned for its horticultural collections was installed in the spring of 2015 surrounding our Administration Building. Overgrown shrubs and plants masking the building’s exterior were removed, as was a declining thornless honeylocust.  Soil testing in this area revealed that heavy clay soil (which leads to poor drainage) was the primary cause of the failing health of several plants.  New soil with better drainage capabilities was brought in to replace the existing soil.

In early May 2015, an impressive Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum, replaced the recently removed honeylocust. Other new plantings include dwarf trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials that will not grow to mask the exterior of our office building.  In reference to the 19th-century practice of ornamenting the Cemetery’s entrance with  showy horticultural displays in large planters, new iron planters were added to the revitalized landscape.

+ Click the links on the interactive photo (top) to see the dramatic transformation of the Administration Building landscape and the planting of our new Paperbark Maple.  


As part of its deferred maintenance program, Mount Auburn is continuing a multi-year project to repair the Administration Building. In May 2015, contractors began work to wash and repoint the western facade of the building (facing Central Avenue). This spring contractors also finished a complete rebuild of the Adminstration Building’s chimney. Inside the building, contractors have replastered water damaged walls and work continues to modernize our Family Room and Conference Room spaces.

Capitalizing on the soil excavation project (see Administration Building Landscape Improvements) Mount Auburn was able to add waterproofing to the building’s foundation. The basement of the Administration Building  is home to staff offices and our Historical Collections.  Keeping our valuable historic records safe and dry is a top priority, but recurring water leaks at the foundation have threatened those collections. To complete the project, a trench was excavated to the base of the building’s foundation. In the process of digging the trench, contractors uncovered the 19th-century brick-lined well that once provided water for visitors and Cemetery staff.  The well is all that remains of the 19th-century Well House, an elaborate  open-air octagonal structure that welcomed visitors at the Cemetery’s Entrance.  After excavation, the foundation was parged with a cementitious mortar to provide a more smooth surface for the waterproofing material, which was sprayed on as a liquid that hardened into a rubber-like membrane.  A final thin coat of foam was applied to the membrane to protect it from damage during backfilling of the excavated trench.  As the trench was backfilled, cracked clay drainage pipes for the roof gutters were replaced with pvc pipes.

+ Click the links on the interactive photo (top) for photos of the rediscovered Well House well and other recent projects happening at our Administration Building.



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