Friday, September 18, 2015

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates ...

I can't think of a cemetery entrance that I like better than the Chariton Cemetery's. Although it has great presence, it is constructed of native field stone and so seems to be an extension of the landscape that surrounds it rather than something plopped down along Highway 14 to impress. Nothing pretentious at all.

We  have landscape architect Ray Wyrick, whose long-term relationship with the cemetery board is responsible for much of the way the grounds look today, to thank for the design. And 10 WPA workers plus a part-time city employee and a city truck, to thank for getting it built back in the summer and early fall of 1937.

The proposed gateway was approved by the Chariton City Council during May of 1937 in large part to correct traffic hazards caused by the entrance in use at that time. That entrance consisted of two 2x2-foot rusticated concrete block posts, 6 feet high and 12 feet apart, right on the Highway 14 right-of-way line. Both the sharp turn into the cemetery this entrance, described as "horse and buggy," imposed and its nearness to traffic caused problems.

The new entrance was set back some 14 feet, was wider and its walls embraced gently curved turns that made it safer to enter and leave the cemetery.

City Council approved plans for the entrance in May, then federal WPA funding was authorized. Construction began during August and the gates had been completed by late October.

Here's the text of an article from The Chariton Leader of Aug. 17, 1937, that provides more details about the project:

"Construction of a new entrance to the Chariton Cemetery will start Monday, according to Theo. Rosa, cemetery superintendent.

"The major share of the cost of the improvement will be carried by WPA. Ten men will be employed.

"The project will include a gate and walls of natural boulders. The gate will be 10 feet west of the present gate, toward the interior of the cemetery, and the walls will curve outward from the new posts to border the highway on either side.

"Total cost of the project is estimated at $2,317.75, of which the government will furnish 69 percent, or $1,578. The balance --- $739.35 --- will be provided by the cemetery association. The city council has agreed to furnish a truck and one part-time worker.

"A new cemetery entrance has been needed for many years but, until WPA aid was made available, cost was prohibitive. The present gate provides only a 12-foot entrance way, has an abrupt turn, and is a source of congestion and danger to traffic.

"the new gate will be four feet wider than that now in use. It will be closed by placing a chain beween the two posts, which are to be nine feet in height and four feet in width. The walls will be three and one-half feet high and there will be a foot gate through the north wall.

"Mr. Rosa and Ray Wyrick, Des Moines landscape engineer who has served the local Cemetery association for a number of years, will supervise construction. Mr. Wyrick drew the plans for the project.

"Besides removal of the old gate and construction of a new entrance, the project will include grubbing and removing trees and transplanting of small evergreens."

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