The South Wedge has astounding, amazing world-class natural and historic resources right in our back yard. If you have never taken a walk in Mount Hope Cemetery, consider it. is city-owned facility is a working cemetery as well as a history-lovers, tree- lovers and bird-watchers’ bit of heaven. In Richard Reisem’s magni cent coffee-table book, “Mount Hope, Rochester, New York,” you can learn that the original purchase of the north section was considered a wasteful, disgraceful use of taxpayers’ money for a god-forsaken wilderness. Even so, at the time of its dedication in 1838 it was the first municipal Victorian cemetery in the United States and fortunately for us, the untamed natural landscape was repurposed without being leveled.
“Set in a picturesque landscape shaped by retreating glaciers, the cemetery features more than 80 mausoleums, soaring Egyptian obelisks, winged angels of mercy, a Florentine cast-iron fountain, two stone chapels in Gothic Revival style, a Moorish gazebo, and infinitely varied tombstones marking 350,000 graves across 196 acres.” (FOMH website)
How times have changed since the contentious debates of the 1830s. Mount Hope Cemetery is now listed in: Mount Hope/Highland Preservation District; New York State Register of Historic Places; National Register of Historic Places; National Park Services National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and the Erie Canalway National Corridor as an Affiliate Site.
But wait! There’s more! Mt. Hope Cemetery has become a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat and a historic site on Rochester’s portion of the Genesee Riverway Trail. The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery (FOMH) is a non-profit organization of volunteers founded in 1980 to restore, preserve, and encourage public use and enjoyment of this unique historical treasure. FOMH have been named a Preserve America Steward, a designation that is granted by First Lady Michelle Obama to not-for-profit organizations committed to caring for America’s cultural heritage.
If none of the above information whets your interest in a self-guided stroll, the FOMH o er general and special-theme guided walking tours throughout the year. The 2016 season of regular weekend public tours runs through the end of October. Visit the TOURS page on their website, fohm.org, for a complete schedule. FOHM also o ers genealogical services through their website by Friends volunteers.
No surprise, this organization can always use help with ongoing restoration projects like the Moorish-Style Gazebo and e Civil War Monument. FOHM has a goal of $50,000 to defray the costs of overdue repairs to these irreplaceable landmarks. FOMH offers a membership package starting at $20 and if you have some free time, consider their volunteer opportunities. details about all of this are available on their website.
Mt. Hope Cemetery General and Theme Tours through August. For the complete 2016 schedule visit fomh.org
All Tours Meet at the North Gatehouse, 791 Mount Hope Ave. unless otherwise indicated below. Admission: $5 per person* Free for members and children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult. Cash/Check Only. We do not accept credit cards at this time.
PUBLIC TOURS, NORTH SECTION
Sundays at 2:00 p.m., May 1 – October 30 plus Labor Day, Monday, Sep- tember 5 at 2:00 p.m. This foundational tour is a two-hour guided walk of approximately one mile on paved roads and uneven terrain. Includes the graves of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and topics of local history, horticulture, geology, achitecture, monument symbolism, and more.
Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., May 12 – August 11
These 75-minute tours include some topics covered on Sunday North Section tours as well as new material
ERIE CANAL II: BOATYARDS AND BUSINESSMEN
Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. Tour Guide: Nancy Uffindell
The Erie Canal made Rochester a boom town! Meet some of the famous and less-famous people who had connections to this legendary waterway.
PIONEERS, REFORMERS, AND HEROES
Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. Tour Guide: Sally Millick
Rochester was home to a number of major contributors to the shaping of early New York, many of whom rest in this section (G) of the cemetery.
FORM AND FUNCTION OF MOUNT HOPE CEMETERY
Saturday, August 6, 11:00 a.m. Tour Guide: Dennis Carr
What is the history of the cemetery itself, its origins, design, and layout? Find out on this tour that looks at Mount Hope through a unique lens.
THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR
Saturday, August 13, 11:00 a.m. Tour Guide: Dennis Carr
Learn about the American Revolution through the lives of veterans within Mount Hope. Music provided by members of the Towpath Fife & Drum Corps.
THE ICE CREAM TOUR
Saturday, August 20, 11:00 a.m.
Meet: South Entrance, 1133 Mount Hope Ave., opposite the Distillery restaurant. Tour Guide: Don Hall
Learn about the making and selling of ice cream and other sundries, one of Rochester’s earliest businesses, and enjoy a dish of special ice cream!
ROCHESTER’S EAST AVENUE
Saturday, August 27, 11:00 a.m. Tour Guide: Sally Millick
East Avenue was the neighborhood of many notable residents. Learn their stories and hear about their grand mansions, some standing, some lost.