St Patrick’s Cemetery tour this Saturday at 10am

There will be a free tour of St Patrick’s Cemetery this Saturday (June 8, 2013) at 10am beginning from the cemetery office on Gorham Street. Here’s what Dave McKean, on the “Lowell Irish” blog, writes about the tour:

In the not too distant past Gorham Street was lined with monument companies that serviced the cemeteries of the area. Advances in technology enabled cutters to create grander works of art than those that were previously done, at first in slate and later in marble. Vermont was often the source for the granite. Hauled from the pits of places like Barre, Vermont blocks were brought to local dealers to meet the wants of the individual buyers. Customers could be shown books of designs, or they could work with the individual carvers. Newspapers would often announce the erection of new monuments in local cemeteries. Railcars ran right along Gorham Street and brought families to visit grave sites, which was often a weekend outing for many families. Until the 20th century individuals cut the grass and trimmed whatever landscaping was on a lot. Visitors recall bringing a picnic lunch to finish off the day before returning to the neighborhoods. The lawns and trees of the burial ground might provide a alternative to life in the tenement. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the cemetery took on that duty of cutting the grass with the introduction of “perpetual care.”.

John Pinardi of The Lowell Monument Company created many of the works that appear throughout the cemetery. A number of the high Celtic crosses were his creation. (He would later be buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery.) Often carvers such as Mahan & Meehan signed their work as a sign of pride of what they created and as an advertisement. Trade cards from the different companies would entice customers to tour the company’s yards to view works in progress. These companies also provided curbing to mark cemetery lots and did work at various businesses throughout the city. During one period, catalogues, such as Sears and Roebuck, sold markers that would be shipped to the home. These could be made of marble, granite, or even metal.

The simple early 19th century slates of Yards 1 & 2 were replaced by marble around the time of the Civil War. The marble stones that cover yard 3 was easier to carve and quite accessible. But soon the permanence and versatility of granite outshone then all and appear through the rest of the cemetery. The financial and social conditions of the Irish population had also evolved and they showed this change by creating these gardens of stones.