Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Houston's Silent Garden Featured in Chronicle

The giant live oak, twelfth in the Harris County Tree Registry, is thought to be about a hundred years old--smaller in trunk circumference but larger in canopy spread than other large live oaks in the county.

". . . a marble-angels-and-Spanish-moss piece of the Old South, a stray piece of New Orleans hidden just off Washington Avenue, about a mile from downtown."--Lisa Gray, Houston Chronicle

Since 1871, Houston's Glenwood Cemetery has offered a serene and pastoral final resting place for many of Houston's civic leaders and historic figures.

For her recent column for the Houston Chronicle, Lisa Gray spoke to Joanne Seale Wilson, co-author of Houston's Silent Garden: Glenwood Cemetery, 1871-2009, as she investigated the history of a 64-foot tall, presumably 135-year-old cemetery oak.

In Houston's Silent Garden, Wilson and Suzanne Turner (with photographer Paul Hester) reveal the story of Glenwood -- a story that is also very much entwined with the history of the city of Houston.

Wilson told the Chronicle that Glenwood's founders had lofty ambitions for their cemetery, aiming to develop a "garden cemetery" and burial place for the elite, akin to Laurel Hill in Philadelphia or GreenWood in Brooklyn. Also, in an era that pre-dated city parks, Glenwood's founders hoped to design a place where the public could enjoy the outdoors, Turner said.

The cemetery's planners, who chose a spot on the hilly banks of Buffalo Bayou, succeeded in this regard. On big holidays geared toward memorializing fallen soldiers, media reports noted that thousands of celebrants visited the cemetery -- more living people than dead ones, Turner said.

See Gray's column here.

Head bowed, the Kremers monument angel has her wings silhouetted against the skyline. When Glenwood was founded, Houston was still a new town and the cemetery site was on its outskirts. Today the cemetery's picturesque landscape and collection of handsome memorials are close to the city's heart and among its treasured landmarks.

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