Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA
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Significance: Philadelphia's Laurel Hill Cemetery constitutes the second major rural cemetery in the United States. Begun in 1836, it is the earliest known work of John Notman, an important nineteenth-century architect and landscape designer. Civil engineer and "rural architect" James C. Sidney also forged his landscape career at Laurel Hill. After laying out a southern addition to the grounds, he designed parks and cemeteries in Pennsylvania and New York. A third beneficiary of Laurel Hill was its principal founder, John Jay Smith. He guided the cemetery's planting and promotion, and in the process earned an influential voice in horticulture and cemetery management. As the common link between people who shaped America's metropolitan landscape, Laurel Hill deserves study.
Yet the cemetery's significance extends well beyond an association with these individuals. In an era when cities suffered from crowding, disease, and scarcity of public space, Laurel Hill offered an "alternative environment." Amid clerical criticism and economic instability, the institution lured startling numbers of patrons and visitors. They came to experience artfully controlled nature; to see romantic monuments and to build them; to mix piety and patriotism, education and entertainment. Cemetery literature promised all of these things. Nonetheless, the institution ultimately placed property rights above public access. As Laurel Hill's visitation statistics fueled the Victorian crusade for urban parks, lot-holders built higher fences and managers wrote more restrictive rules. Today Laurel Hill stands as a landmark in the history of American architecture, landscape, and marketing. Spawned by a New Jersey Quaker's interest in horticulture, commemoration, and elite enterprise, it is an essay in Victorian taste and mores.
Survey number: HABS PA-1811
Building/structure dates: 1836 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1849 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1864-1865 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1913 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1840 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1844 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1874-1900 Subsequent Work
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 77001185
Freemasonry's impact on America is more significant than anything that speculation would hold. A movement that emerged from the Reformation, Freemasonry was the widespread and well-connected organization. It may seem strange for liberal principles to coexist with a secretive society but masonry embraced religious toleration and liberty principles, helping to spread them through the American colonies. In a young America, Masonic ideals flourished. In Boston in 1775, Freemasonic officials who were part of a British garrison granted local freemen of color the right to affiliate as Masons. The African Lodge No. 1. was named after the order's founder, Prince Hall, a freed slave. It represented the first black-led abolitionist movement in American history. One of the greatest symbols of Freemasonry, the eye-and-pyramid of the Great Seal of the United States, is still on the back of the dollar bill. The Great Seal's design was created under the direction of Benjamin Franklin (another Freemason), Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Freemasonry principles strengthened America's founding commitment to the individual's pursuit of meaning. Beyond fascination with symbolism and secrecy, this ideal represents Freemasonry's highest contribution to U.S. life. Freemasons rejected a European past in which one overarching authority regulated the exchange of ideas. Washington, a freemason, in a letter to the congregation of a Rhode Island synagogue wrote: "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens..." Freemasonry's most radical idea was the coexistence of different faiths within a single nation.
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