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The art of memorial monuments

The Owen Jones monument, Chester A. Arthur's tomb, the Angel of Death on the Haserot family tomb, and Mother and Twins gravestone at Laurel Hill Cemetery

America has a long history of spectacular headstone designs and grave memorials. Talented artists, architects and sculptors have turned their hand to creating breathtaking memorial art and statues in some of the U.S.’s most beautiful historic cemeteries.

With the dawn of the rural cemetery movement in the 1800s, American cemeteries started to become places of beauty and art, with masterpieces dedicated to those who had died. Here are just 10 of the many wonderful works of art that stand in cemeteries across the nation.

1. Taylor Monument, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale

Taylor monument with archer sculpture Photos by Gaston Hinostroza via Flickr.

This striking memorial sculpture sits atop the tomb of J. Hartley Taylor and his wife, Nettie Barbara Taylor. Called ‘Protection’, this bronze statue depicts a man aiming a bow, shielding a woman and child from danger. It was designed by Herman J. Schultheis, a German sculptor and engineer, and occupies a hilltop viewpoint overlooking the beautiful landscaped vistas of the cemetery.

2. Elks Tumulus, Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans

Elks burial mound in Greenwood Cemetery Photo by Nam Vũ via Wikimedia Commons.

This mausoleum is a final resting place for members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, a nationwide fraternal society. A bronze elk stands atop the tumulus, or burial mound, guarding the doorway. A clock above the door is frozen and shows 11 o’clock. This an important time for Elks, known as the Hour of Recollection, when they raise a glass in memory of absent friends.

3. Merello Volta Monument, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Bronze statue on the Merello Volta gravestone Photos by Bestbudbrian via Wikimedia Commons.

This beautiful and moving depiction of grief shows a woman, cast in bronze, weeping on the steps of a tomb. It is sometimes called the Mafia Bride, due to an urban legend that it marks the grave of a bride killed by the mob on the way to her wedding. In fact, it is the grave of Rose Merello Guarino, who was shot by her family’s servant in 1909. The statue’s beauty and tragic backstory means that flowers are still frequently left for Rose.

4. The Angel of Death Victorious, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland

Bronze angel of death figure on Haserot family tomb Photo by Tim Evanson via Flickr.

Also called the Haserot Angel, this memorial monument was sculpted by Herman Matzen in 1923 and marks wealthy merchant Francis Haserot’s family tomb. The symbol of death as a winged angel was particularly common in 19th and early 20th Century American funerary sculpture. This winged figure looks as if she is weeping, due to the effect of bronze oxidizing in the rain.

5. Volunteer Firemen Memorial, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo

The volunteer firemen memorial in Forest Lawn Cemetery Photos by Dave Pape.

At the entrance to Forest Lawn Cemetery is this imposing figure, a fireman cast from bronze atop a granite pedestal. This memorial pays homage to seven firefighters who died in the line of duty in the mid and late 1800s. Around the monument there are roughly 100 small headstones arranged in circles; these are the final resting places of other brave firemen who served the residents of Buffalo.

6. Angel of Sorrow, Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands

Bronze and granite tombstone of Chester A. Arthur Photo by Tony Fischer via Flickr.

The 21st President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur was laid to rest in Albany Rural Cemetery, in 1886. He was buried with his beloved wife Ellen, who tragically died of pneumonia in 1880 and whose death he was still mourning when he took office. This typically 19th Century-style monument was designed by Ephraim Keyser, depicting a winged angel standing over the granite sarcophagus and laying a palm frond on Arthur’s tomb.

7. Mother and Twins Monument, Laurel Hill, Philadelphia

Mother and twins gravestone memorial at Laurel Hill Photos by Thomas James Caldwell via Flickr and Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons.

This worn but beautiful gravestone tells a heartbreaking story. It was carved by Polish sculptor Henry Dmoghowski-Saunders, husband and father of the woman and twins depicted. The statue overlooks the Schuylkill River where the twins tragically drowned, and marks not only their final resting place, but that of their mother who died two years later. Though much of the grave’s inscription has been worn away by the weather, you can still see the part that reads: “We should count time in heart throbs.”

8. Eternal Silence, Graceland Cemetery, Chicago

Bronze statue designed by Lorado Taft in Graceland Cemetery Photo by swimfinfan via Flickr.

This bronze statue, ‘Eternal Silence’, marks the burial site of Dexter Graves and his relatives. Graves was a hotel owner who led a group of 13 families from Ohio to Chicago in 1831, as some of the earliest settlers of the area. ‘Eternal Silence’ is also known as the ‘Statue of Death’ and shows a hooded figure holding a cloak across his face. It was created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1909, 75 years after Graves’ death.

9. Owen Jones monument, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow

Gothic Revival style monument to Owen Jones Photos by SHC via Wikimedia Commons and Goosefriend via Flickr.

Successful New York City merchant Owen Jones is immortalized with this elaborate memorial monument in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. After his death in 1884, this impressive structure was designed in his memory, inspired by the popular Gothic Revival style. The artistry of Jones’ tomb is particularly noticeable in the fine, lifelike carving of his figure, complete with his overcoat on his arm and beautifully detailed clothing.

10. Luyties family grave, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis

Luyties memorial scultpure in Bellefontaine Cemetery Photos by stannate via Flickr.

Also known as ‘the girl in the shadow box’, this hauntingly beautiful headstone marks the Luyties family plot. Herman Luyties commissioned the memorial stone after falling hopelessly in love with an Italian sculptor’s model. Although she declined his marriage proposal, he shipped the statue of her to St. Louis and kept it in his home. Eventually it was moved to mark the family burial plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery, where Herman added a glass case to protect his beloved from weathering. He died at the age of 50 in 1921 and was buried at her feet.

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