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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES » MASSACHUSETTS » Forest Hills Cemetery
Forest Hills Cemetery

Boston, Massachusetts

By Melanie Lown | July 29, 2011

“I thank you. . . for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” -E.E. Cummings (buried at Forest Hills Cemetery).

BY & COPYRIGHT: Billie-Jo Thibault

Lazy picnics on the shore of a sparkling lake, leisurely walks amidst sprawling hills and gardens, and views of famous outdoor sculptures might sound like a romantic—albeit pricey—getaway. Add an ample amount of gravestones, and you get Forest Hills Cemetery, a pristine refuge in the heart of a bustling city. Whether visiting for the first time, or looking to upgrade your staycation, Boston’s first real public park is a must-see. Dogs are welcome too.

Founded in 1848 by Henry A.S. Dearborn, the mayor of Roxbury, MA, Forest Hills Cemetery inspired Frederick Law Olmsted thirty years before he created Boston’s Emerald Necklace. Visitors can instantly see why. Its 275 acres flaunt a dreamy, Victorian landscape, replete with period architecture and sculpture. At the center, Lake Hibiscus is nestled in among winding, shaded paths, and majestic trees. The burial grounds denote a shift in American taste away from stark colonial minimalism to the more romantic Victorian vision of death embodied by art and nature (think Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre).

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the cemetery is also known for the famous New England residents buried or memorialized on its grounds. Notables include poets E.E. Cummings and Anne Sexton, playwright Eugene O’Neill, abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Lucy Stone, and Lowell, Massachusetts’ namesake and “father of the Industrial Revolution,” Francis Cabot Lowell.

The cemetery is not only renowned for its residents but also for the ornate, Victorian-era sculpture that dots the landscape. Forest Hills features four works by Daniel Chester French, the artist best known for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. One of his memorials in the cemetery, Death Stays the Hand of the Sculptor (1892) is a moving tribute to two local artists and brothers, and could easily seem at home in any piazza in Florence. Want a sneak peek? Check out the virtual Scholar’s Tour on the cemetery’s website to learn about select Victorian works.

Although nineteenth-century sculpture is plentiful, the cemetery is not just a resting place for all things old. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Contemporary Sculpture Path, a fresh-air, modern art museum that features over thirty-five works by national artists. Each installation is intended to evoke the cemetery’s themes of nature, landscape, and history. One particularly eye-catching piece on display is Nightshirts (2002) by artist Leslie Wilcox—an eerie series of five Victorian dresses

BY & COPYRIGHT: Billie-Jo Thibault

If you prefer a more structured visit, the Forest Hills Educational Trust sponsors a robust calendar of events, including: walking tours, concerts, poetry readings, bird watching, school field trips, and arts programs for Boston summer camps. The events also provide a source of respite and community for residents of nearby Boston neighborhoods.

“I cannot promise very much.

I give you the images I know.

Lie still with me and watch.

We laugh and we touch.

I promise you love. Time will not take that away.”

-Anne Sexton (buried at Forest Hills Cemetery)


Forest Hills Cemetery

95 Forest Hills Avenue, Boston, MA 02130

(617) 524-0128


Opening Hours:

The cemetery grounds are open every day, 7:30AM–dusk.

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