Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sacred Vacation of 2010 - Day 3

This is the day the Lord hath made...and it was a most productive one for me. Lots to do and see. I awoke early, early because I wanted to visit Oldfields, the estate of the Lilly pharmaceutical family. The house museum and grounds adjoin the Indianapolis Museum of Art. As I drove along the White River to the site, the morning mist hung low over the landscape. I watched the sun rise through this veil of moist air and it was a dawn to remember.

My major professor had worked on a project restoring the gardens of Oldfields. She encouraged me to visit the grounds if I had the time. The gardens were open from dawn to dusk, so I had decided Thursday night to take in the Indianapolis River Promenade and the ball game, then visit the Lilly Gardens early Friday morning before my monument preservation workshop at 9 am. As it turned out, Oldfields was across the way from Crown Hill Cemetery, so the logistics worked out perfectly.

The gardens were beautiful. Heavy with morning dew, every leaf, every blade, shimmered in quiet beauty. I arrived long before any employees, so I had the place to myself. The textural effect of the plantings magnified the morning light and shadows across the open landscape. Prof, thanks for the heads up about this place. It was magnificent.

I confess that I had not done my homework to uncover who designed these gardens, but the signage helped me out. Percival Gallagher, a landscape architect working with the Olmsted Brothers, designed the border gardens in the early 1920's during the golden era of the country estate. Thanks again to Prof for a solid foundation of landscape architectural history that placed this estate in its proper context. The strong central axis runs from the house to a circular skim of water in a low concrete basin. The statuary beyond is nestled in a lush green surround of conifers at the base of towering evergreens. Again, I have discovered beauty in simple design.

After a glorious walk throughout the grounds, I headed to the workshop at Crown Hill Cemetery. I was early enough so I got to circle the perimeter of the cemetery to get a feel for the neighborhood, then drive through the cemetery to snap some fotos before the morning lecture began. Robert Milne, Superintendent of Crown Hill Cemetery, is a trained horticulturist formerly with Scotts Lawn Care Co. I think he has found his niche. The cemetery is beautiful. He has strong backup from the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation which raises money and awareness of this beautiful historic cultural landscape.

Crown Hill Cemetery, the third largest cemetery in the U.S., was established on the Martin Williams farm and tree nursery in 1863. This landscape makes up a significant portion of Indianapolis' urban forest. The ''107 Trees of Crown Hill" map provides a self-guided tour identifying beautiful, old Indiana native trees. The cemetery was originally designed by Fredrick Chislett, a landscape architect who became the first superintendent. In 1866, land adjacent to the original cemetery was purchased by the U.S. Government for a National Cemetery which is now surrounded by Crown Hill. In 1973, Crown Hill Cemetery was placed on the National Register.

Jason Church, Materials Conservator of NCPTT conducted the workshop which was well worth the drive to Indianapolis. The morning's lecture was informative, as well as entertaining. Over the lunch hour, we boarded the Crown Hill Express and dined from box lunches as we toured the 555 acres of Midwestern rural cemetery. The afternoon found some of us scrubbing...ever so gently....the buildup of lichen from several headstones....of the Lilly family!

With the conclusion of the workshop, I headed out the pearly gates and found my way onto the interstate. This next cemetery was a special treat requiring an extra day of travel to experience the grand-daddy of Midwestern rural cemeteries just down the road in Cincinnati, OH.

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