So on my pursuit to retrace the steps of Edgar Allan Poe because well I can, I stumbled upon something of epic coolness.
Rock Creek Cemetery.
In the heart of Washington DC, Rock Creek Cemetery is the home to my reason for a visit, the final resting place of Rosalie Poe, sister to Edgar Allan Poe. Established in 1719, it is the home to many dignitaries as well as famous folks and owns the title of the oldest cemetery in the District of Columbia.
Upon entering the grounds with a trusty map in hand that I easily printed off their website, I easily found Rosalie’s headstone. Sadly I easily discovered it was but a small memorial against the beasts of beauty that surrounded the park-like cemetery.
I’ve always been fond of architecture and I don’t shy away from including funerary sculptures into that category. Except for me they take on a whole separate appreciation. The solemnity of them. The personal meaning that lies within each. The clear love and grief of its design that is almost staring back at you. It’s eerily beautiful. And when I began to meander about the well-groomed grounds of Rock Creek I came across many notable and breathtaking mausoleums, sculptures and tombstones that I want to share.
The first one that was more like a secret sanctuary was enclosed by walls of shrubbery that looked well cared for. Walking up the marble steps onto a square marble platform I discover this.
Of course I had to search the internet to find out what this eerily amazing piece was and who is buried here as you see it’s completely unmarked. I do love a good mystery and believe you me I already had a novel half way written.
What I found out was pretty cool. Amazingly enough this unmarked sculpture was built in 1891 and in 1972 was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Um, wow. I can see why though. Buried here is notable author Henry Adams and his wife, Clover. Heartbroken when his wife committed suicide, Henry sought out the skills of famed Irish artist, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and architect Stanford White to design a piece fitting for his wife. Over the years it has taken on the name as “Grief” from its many visitors from all over the country. However, Mr Adams left specific instructions in his will that there was never to be an inscription nor was the monument ever to be labeled with a title.
His vision was that of the Buddhist interpretation of nirvana, a state of being beyond joy and sorrow. I was easily in absolute awe of it and found myself sitting on the marble bench that surrounds it, meditating. Sigh. What a beautifully tragic love story. The love this man must have had for his wife and clearly heartbroken to want to make something so beautiful, so unique. I visualized him coming here, sitting, talking to her. I was mesmerized by her solemn beauty and had to get an up close look of her. It should be noted here that the intent of Saint-Gaudens was this not to be male nor female, but I like to imagine that it is her, his wife, trapped in her silent tomb.
Easily my most memorable piece throughout the whole cemetery I spent quite a bit of time here, captivated by the beauty, the meaning and the sadness.
Reluctantly, I continued my exploration, leaving this oasis and it didn’t take long to stumble upon another silent beauty and unlike Adams memorial, this was left to weather which I found remarkably symbolic.
Those eyes so real as if telling me their story, and the face as if covered in grief-stricken tears. Created by sculpture American, Gutzon Borglum “Rabboni” it is meant to depict that of Mary Magdalene and has a bronze marker on the back that reads:
THE END OF BIRTH IS DEATH
THE END OF DEATH IS LIFE
WHEREFOR MOURNEST THOU
This next one was a close second to the Adams Memorial and is simply titled “Memory” and designed by American sculpture William Partridge. The bronze panels along the granite bench that the mourning woman sits depicts Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Men.”
The only information I could get on this next one was that it was designed by artist Jules Dechin so I call it “The Raised Hand”
This one, the Frederick Keep Monument, I couldn’t find much information on other than it is designed by artist, James Earle Fraser.
Remaining are other images I captured throughout the grounds of various tombstones, monuments and intricate mausoleums.
Finally, the reason that brought me to this secret oasis, the tombstone of Rosalie Poe, which will undoubtedly be included in an upcoming post of my travels along the East Coast in search of Poe Places.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in this oasis amidst the bustling streets of Washington DC . If you like history and are a fan of funerary sculpture or simply want to adventure somewhere off the beaten path, I would highly recommend a visit to Rock Creek Cemetery.