Thursday, May 23, 2013

Open house at the Chariton Cemetery

Figuring out what to call this little building at the heart of the Chariton Cemetery can be a major nomenclature challenge. Is it the chapel? The only indication that it was intended to be used as such is a cross built into the brickwork of the chimney. Is it the rest room? There is a (non-functional) toilet in a tiny room off one corner, as well as original wicker furniture installed about 1930.

Whatever the case, it's a wonderful little structure in the "English cottage" style, built in 1929, and one of the contributing factors --- in addition to landscaping, other structures and design features and the general nature of the place --- that led to the cemetery's designation a few years ago as an historic district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

And it will be open this Memorial Day weekend --- from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Sunday and Monday, courtesy of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission and the Lucas County Genealogical Society. Volunteer attendants will be there with some of the cemetery's records (courtesy of the city of Chariton and the cemetery staff) as well as cookies and lemonade to visit about the cemetery, offer help in locating graves and give visitors a chance to step inside the little building, usually locked.

Janet deals with an urn.

Alyse Hunter, Melody Wilson, Janet Clark and myself --- all Preservation Commission members --- were out at the cemetery late yesterday afternoon to give the place a spring cleaning in preparation for the open house --- and that's when these photos were taken.

Alyse and Melody.

The Chariton Cemetery was founded during 1863 to replace two older burial places, one now called the Douglass Pioneer Cemetery and the other, located on what now are the Columbus School grounds. All of the Columbus School site graves were removed to the new cemetery as well as many from Douglass.

Founded as a private corporation with several stockholders, cemetery ownership had become concentrated by the late 1920s in the hands of the Stanton family --- and the Stantons were losing control of the situation, causing general unrest. As a result, the city of Chariton forced purchase of the cemetery from the Stantons, then launched an ambitions improvement project that included this little building as well as the nearby "baby heart" and extensive landscaping. The fieldstone gateway, built by WPA workers, was integrated into the overall project.

Chariton architect (as well as city engineer) William L. Perkins probably designed the structure, but we've never been able to attribute it directly to him. It has his design signature written all over it, however.

So if you're in Chariton on Sunday or Monday, feel free to stop in and look around.

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