Help us Preserve the Scots’ Charitable Fence

January 3, 2022

Mount Auburn has received a challenge grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a detailed assessment of our magnificent Scots’ Charitable Society lot fence. This will be the important first step towards preserving one of Mount Auburn’s most unique works of commemorative art.

Read on to learn more about the fence, and help us raise the funds that we need to unlock the grant and start this ambitious project!

Meaningful Design, Unique History

Cast iron fence gate
The gate of the Scots’ Charitable Society lot fence, featuring St. Andrew

The Scots’ Charitable Society Fence (Lot #816 at the intersection of Fir and Walnut Avenues) is one of the most ornate cast iron fences at Mount Auburn. It was designed by architect Theodore Voelckers circa 1847 and made by David Miller of Boston, a member of the Scots’ Charitable Society. The large fence is adorned with symbols of the Scottish heritage of the people buried in the lot, including the image of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, as well as thistles, battle axes, rampant lions, and crests.

Purchased in 1841 by the Scots’ Charitable Society for its members, this lot memorializes over 200 people. What makes it unusual is that there are no headstones or grave markers. Instead, the cast iron fence itself is the memorial. At the time, this was a creative exercise in economy. Many working-class people could not afford the high costs of individual lots at Mount Auburn, so the Scots’ Charitable Society lot was a resource for members in need.

Today, the Scots’ Charitable Society lot fence is one of our most beloved, from its remarkable design to the unique history it represents.

Critical Need for Preservation

Fence base with cracks forming
Cracks forming in one of the fence’s bases

After so many years of outdoor exposure, the fence needs substantial preservation. The granite bases – which hold up the heavy fence – have suffered severe deterioration, threatening the entire fence’s stability. The fence also has many broken spots that need repair. And its outer coat of paint – the essential layer that protects any cast iron from damage – is wearing thin, so the entire fence needs repainting. We anticipate that the fence will need to be fully dismantled for repair – a complex but essential project to ensure its future.

Before we can preserve the fence, our preservation team needs to determine what the most effective plan will be over the next several years. Hiring preservation architects to conduct an assessment – which we have done for other major projects like Washington Tower and the Egyptian Revival Gateway – is the first step needed.

You can help us preserve this iconic fence! Donate today to help us cover all of the assessment costs and unlock the $3,000 match required for our National Trust grant, and help us build momentum for this ambitious project over the next several years. Thank you for your support!

Learn More: Cast Iron Fences at Mount Auburn

In the early years at Mount Auburn, many proprietors enclosed their lots with iron fences – part of a trend of decorating family lots in a similar fashion to one’s home or front yard. By the 1860s, 1,700 of them dotted our grounds. But the trend of iron fence art was short-lived, and many people in the 1870s began to criticize it for making the Cemetery look too cluttered – like a “crazy quilt.” A movement to remove the existing fences began, and no new fences, granite curbing, or steps were permitted on newly-purchased lots for many decades to follow. Today, Mount Auburn has 62 fences remaining in our landscape – 60 historic and 2 new. Back in 1993, we developed a Master Plan that recognized the importance of preserving early ornamentation of the landscape, and as a result, Mount Auburn has been committed to caring for and preserving the remaining fences.

Ornamenting the Landscape: An Interview with Meg L. Winslow

History of Fence and Curb Removal at Mount Auburn

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About the Author: Anna Moir

Grants & Communications Manager View all posts by Anna Moir →

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