Restoring Newton’s Historic Burying Grounds

Historic Newton is an advocate for the preservation of Newtons three City-owned historic burying grounds: the East Parish Burying Ground (1660), West Parish Burying Ground (1781), and South Burying Ground (1802). The burying grounds are an important civic and cultural resource, and are historically significant both for the local history and national events they embody. A review of the gravestones and tombs reveals dozens of names now associated with Newtons streets, schools, public buildings, parks, and landmarks. Notable are the graves of many individuals who participated in the Revolutionary War. Marking the final resting place of many of Newtons European settlers, and shedding light on Puritan and early American culture, the burying grounds contain some of the finest examples of early American gravestone art carved by some of our nations most accomplished gravestone artists.

Recognizing the historical, cultural, social, and environmental importance of Newton's old burying grounds, in 2003, Historic Newton and City of Newton Parks and Recreation Department launched a long range program to seek and secure Community Preservation Act funding for site stabilization, gravestone and tomb restoration, improved access, fences, gates, and signage. The preservation and restoration of the burying grounds meets two key requirements for CPA funding: historic preservation and the protection of open space.

Using a comprehensive study of the burying grounds, the restoration plan was divided into three phases: urgent, immediate, and future. Completed work to date has included the removal of dead trees; the pruning of dead limbs from healthy trees; and the removal of brush from each of the three sites. Addressing these urgent needs made the sites safe for subsequent contractors to complete the restoration and preservation work on 256 historic gravestones. Major work on the tombs is slated to begin in the spring of 2010, to be followed by the installation of new fences and gates. Final stage conservation work, improved handicap access, repairs to the stone walls, and informational and interpretative signage, will complete the current restoration plans.

Seen in conjunction with the ongoing public-private partnership to restore the burying grounds for generations to come, the effect of the CPA-funded work is to rectify the erosion of the final resting places of Newton's ancestry and to secure these cultural treasures for the century to come.

Historic Newton plans, schedules, and oversees volunteer activities at Newtons three historic buying grounds, including clean-up initiatives in the spring and fall. For more information please call 617-796-1450.