Friday, July 3, 2009
The Odd Ball Tomb
The photo on the left is an example of the "pyramid style"; behind it and in front can be seen examples of the pediment or rectangular style; drawing taken from New Orleans Architecture Vol III The Cemeteries.
It is St. Louis #1 sketched by Latrobe in 1834, original kept by the HNOC
New Orleans area cemeteries remind me of a smaller shadow of cemeteries such as Pere Lachaise in Paris. Indeed many of the above ground tomb architecture was borrowed from such cemeteries.
However, there was a time before the above ground tomb was fashionable in New Orleans and there are still remnants. You find them in the older cemeteries. Tombs that consisted of a large rectangle of bricks and plaster above the ground. Some had plaques or tablets placed on top with an opening in the front that was similar to a very small arched, oven like opening. Prior to the above ground tomb popularity, these were choice of middle to upper class New Orleanians. Others were simply buried in the ground with a traditional tombstone marking the location. There is the occasional odd tomb that dates back to that period, but is not common to the popular architecture of the time. That is the subject of my blog today. The "odd ball" that is really not so odd.
To put it in perspective, there is a relatively "new" cemetery owned by the Firemen's Benevolent Assoc. that converges with several other cemeteries at the end of Canal Street. As a child, I grew up and lived for many years within a few blocks of these cemeteries. The one I am discussing is called Greenwood. Many of my more recent relatives are buried in Greenwood. In fact, my Great Grandmother had the majority of her husband's family moved from St. Louis #3 to Greenwood, stating that she would not allow her family members to lay in a "dumping ground". This owing to the lack of upkeep of the St. Louis cemeteries at the time. She is buried at Greenwood with her husband as well as my grandfather and one of my brothers. Needless to say, I have spent a tremendous amount of time in this particular cemetery keeping up the family tombs and paying my respects on all important occasions (and yes, many New Orleanians still stay true to the traditions of All Saint's Day, especially the Catholics, of which, I am one).
That being said, there is a tomb in Greenwood that always caught my eye. It is not beautiful or graceful. I do not believe that it is even well built. It's just...odd, especially to the average observer. It is shaped less like a pyramid and more like a triangular mound of stones. It's average size is that of the rest of the above ground tombs in the cemetery. I always thought that it was just an eccentric's resting place, until I began reading up on the subject.
As it turns out, this is a very old style that dates back to the same period as the rectangles. I first realized this when I found a painting of St. Louis #1 and in the forefront there was a rendition of that same tomb that I see in Greenwood. If that tomb still exists in SL1, I am not aware of it, but to be sure, someone at Greenwood found it appealing and revisited the architecture. It is primitive looking while at the same time interesting and unique. There are several others sprinkled among the many cemeteries of New Orleans. What strikes me about this particular tomb architecture is that while