Friday, May 22, 2015

colorful tombs in New Orleans

Ahhh, back from vacation and there’s no place like home (clicks heels). But post-vacation melancholy has kicked in and I’m moving about like a slug today… and coughing. Seriously Virginia allergies! Oy! I felt great in New Orleans but pollen is different and I suppose I’m a little bit allergic to home. Speaking of green…

There is much to say but I cannot get my mind off the light green tomb in Lafayette Cemetery. But let me back up a bit. After a bit of research, I learned that there is a tendency in some cemeteries in Louisiana to paint the tombs in pops of colors. Not everyone likes this idea and in fact in 2011 a Terrebonne Parish (in the southern part of the state), Councilman Alvin Tillman wanted to propose an ordinance against tombs considered “too colorful” for some people’s tastes. There have been complaints about the brightly colored (pink, green, blue and yellow) tombs.  On this trip, in Lafayette Cemetery there was even a bright blue statue of the Virgin Mary on top of one of the tombs and there was also this beautiful green tomb. Other than that, the cemetery seemed consistent with its colors.

2014 trip with Save Our Cemeteries tour guide
Last year when I visited New Orleans, I saw an "oven vault" in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 for Arthur Smith, a man who comes by and paints his family tomb blue... A flamboyant guy walked by and said "because it's his mother's favorite color" and snapped his fingers.

While family members are responsible for caring for family tombs in New Orleans, there are some who might not understand how to care for a tomb or a grave marker. In fact, Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau had her tomb *vandalized* after someone painted it with pink latex paint in December 2013. Even if this was done with good intentions, latex paint is potentially harmful to tombs because it does not allow moisture to escape. As Professor Z and I know all too well about NOLA moisture, you need breathable fabrics, cosmetics and paint!

Some pink paint is probably what led to the final straw in restricting visitors to St. Louis #1. Since March 2015, the Archdiocese of New Orleans requires that cemetery visitors must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.  For now, this only applies to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 but eventually it will be expanded to include other cemeteries throughout the city. This saddens me because while I love a good structured tour, I also like to take my time taking pictures and notes. Of course without such rules and in a place where vandalism is high, one must respect these decisions. After all, we want the cemeteries to be around and in somewhat good condition for future generations to enjoy. 

While this post is about New Orleans cemeteries, these concerns aren’t too far from home. Within about a mile from my home and just a couple of days before the New Orleans vacation, I took a WoodlandCemetery tour. Woodland was founded in 1862 as a burial site for Confederate dead and guide mentioned that there are people who upon locating newly marked graves of Confederate soldiers while dig up the graves for artifacts. What in the world, people!

Basically, I have much to blog about regarding the Woodland Cemetery tour and the New Orleans cemeteries not to mention the trip in general.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

high expectations for women

Virginia Randolph Ellett founded the Virginia Randolph Ellett School for Girls in 1890 (now known as St. Catherine's School). It is Richmond's oldest girls' school, known for it's rigorous academics.

Virginia Randolph Ellett, affectionately known as Miss Jennie, was the founder and first headmistress of St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia. From 1890-1939, she was leader of school that began modestly in a dining room of a boarding house and grew to one of the leading independent girls’ schools in the nation. Considered a pioneer in the field of education and a key figure in the history of women’s education in the South, Ellet’s spirit and standards for women still guide the school she created.

Ellet was a life-long learner. She spent summers studying at Harvard University and at nearly 70 years old, she studied at Oxford.

Ellet died on Easter Day at the age of 82. Her epitaph was written by James Branch Cabell.

Foremost In Learning And In Faith And Aid
Pre-Eminent All Tireless Never Fond
But Resolute In Progress And Afraid
Only Of Finding No More Work Beyond 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

one of my favorite Hollywood markers and obscure history of a woman

One of my favorite things about training to be a tour guide at Hollywood Cemetery was doing the research. I learned a ton from the older guides but in the end the kind of research I enjoyed doing was the obscure this-has-some-meaning-to-me kind which isn’t what I learned from other guides or a class. It’s what I learned doing my own research. So since I’ve officially left my position with the museum, citing that "the institutional culture no longer aligns with my core values" I am able to enter Hollywood and go exactly where I want to go. 

I appreciate the histories of the individuals, those who were significant to many in their time but who are basically unknown today.

One of my favorite examples is the stunning gravestone of Elvira A. Bruce. Not only do I adore the Gothic architecture of the piece but it holds one of the best views of the James River. I would argue that Mrs. Bruce’s location is even better than Presidents Monroe or Tyler’s locations in President Circle.

Eldest daughter of Col. William Cabell, a plantation owner of Union Hill, Nelson County, Virginia, Elvira became the  wife of Patrick Henry, Jr. (no relation to the famous Patrick Henry) on February 9,1804 in Amherst, Va. Within a year, Henry died.  After 15 years, which seems practically unheard of for the time, she married James Bruce. When Bruce died in 1837, he was the third wealthiest man in America. James built the family fortune through a system of stores; he operated a series of wagon trains to supply his stores with goods. Between the years 1802-1837, he was the owner of twelve country stores, several flour mills, a fertilizer-plaster manufactory, a commercial blacksmith shop, several lumber yards, a cotton factory, and two taverns. 

Elvira lived for a while at Woodbourne in Halifax County after James died. 

Her marker is next to James Alexander Seddon, a Richmond lawyer; he was a United States Representative from Virginia from 1845 to 1847 and again from 1849 to 1851. He was a member of the Peace Convention held in Washington, D. C., in 1861, and when that effort failed he was elected as a Virginia Delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress. He was appointed Secretary of War by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and served from 1862 to 1865. Arrested by Union forces in May 1865, he was imprisoned for seven months. 

Today, I’m heading out with my fella to picnic and survey the plots because we plan to make Hollywood our Afterlife home which was our wedding gift to one another although we have yet to select a spot.
Mrs. Bruce's stone sits to the right of this picture with Monroe and Tyler behind me.