- Founded: 1841
- Acres: 85
- Design: Garden Style
- NRHP: Yes #98000543
- Topo: Fairly equal mix of hilly and level… something for everyone
Neighbors: Not even remotely sketchy
Gear: Flip flop approved
So, here at long last, I present one of the first cemeteries that has the potential to require a multi-day crawl. Lowell Cemetery followed closely on the heels of the nation’s first rural / garden-style cemetery, Cambridge’s Mt. Auburn (another blog unto itself… patience gentle readers). At an impressive 85 acres, one could arrive to discover one of two scenarios… broad expanses of vacant, unused space or a somewhat more dense offering of monuments to explore. Lowell is comprised of the latter and definitely requires one to gear up for the trip. I’m talking water, snacks, a pack of smokes if you need them, extra batteries, a pretty good amount of time to linger… and a small trinket or token (more on that later). My daughter and I spent easily four hours or so meandering the winding paths, and I’m fairly certain we STILL missed a good amount of goodies.
What we didn’t miss was the Lion…
…under which rests the mortal remains of Dr. James Ayer, prominent Lowell citizen and medical patentee. The lion served as the symbol of the Ayer Company, and as taphophiles we must extend posthumous thanks to Dr. Ayer for not choosing a more humble “mascot”… for this is truly a massive and stunning sculpture. In considering portent, though, one must ask just how long this particular, regal specimen will stand as guardian to not only Dr. Ayer, but to her as well. “Her” being…
More properly known as Clara Bonney, who departed this earth, if my memory serves me right, in the mid 1890’s. Yet, despite the fact that she was was a couple hundred years removed from the witch hysteria that swept through Massachusetts in the late 1600’s she has, indeed, been dubbed “Witch Bonney”. The token or trinket I suggested you bring? Offering it to Witch Bonney is advised, as evidenced by the myriad of items scattered about her feet. Short version of the legend: when the bodice of her dress has fallen completely away revealing her bronze breasts in all their glory, Clara will be reborn. Ayer’s Lion, which you’ll find rests directly in Witch Bonney’s line of sight, will then crumble and her guardian take his rightful place at her side.
And that leaves us with the Armchair…
…for there wasn’t a wardrobe in sight! I give you but a glimpse of the amazing care and attention paid by the sculptor; I’m told from a single piece of granite. The chair is said to be a replica of one owned by the deceased, Mr. Horace Ebert, which consisted of tufted leather and carved dog heads. Pretty. Damn. Cool.
Beyond these, this is a cemetery absolutely full of stones and statues to suit anyone’s taste, and if you’re in the area I highly encourage a visit. Particularly poignant are the multitude of infant/child markers. Lillys, Willys, Belles, and more can be found in abundance thoughout. Angel seekers? There are enough to satiate your desires… and then some.
In short, you will not be disappointed… Jez’s honor.
You’ll find the gate at 77 Knapp Avenue, and there’s a wealth of information available at the official Lowell Cemetery website.
Coming soon… perhaps a stroll around Londonderry, NH.
Until we next meet… crawl with care.