Sunday, October 18, 2020

Spirits of the season...

By Susan Zehnder, Education Director.

For those of you able to make this year’s historic Ghost Walk, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. This was the 14th year in a row the Chemung County Historical Society, the Friends of Woodlawn, Inc., and Elmira Little Theatre have offered a historic Ghost Walk at Woodlawn Cemetery. We worked with the Health Department to offer a safe experience for all and we know we had to turn away disappointed people when we sold all our tickets in record time. We were thrilled to be approved to offer this popular event despite things being so different right now. 
Alice Shaw, Lucius Robinson, Isaac R. Taylor

This year's version was different. For the first time, visitors began and ended their evenings entirely at the cemetery. 

Socially distant gathering
Masked guides from Friends of Woodlawn

We're encouraging everyone who attended and those that wanted to attend to visit the museum. Ask our receptionist about the scavenger hunt based on this year’s ghosts and enter into a raffle for an October surprise. (Hint to all: you can review the ghosts by reading the 2020 scripts now posted on our website.) Search above for 2020 Ghosts for some additional information on the ghosts including a link to a rare recording of Alice Shaw's whistling.

At the museum, you can also pick up a map of this year’s Ghost Walk route which you can use to walk the route again during the daytime, share it with others, or enjoy it yourself if you weren’t able to join us this year. At the bottom of the website's Ghost Walk page, you’ll find a family scavenger hunt for Woodlawn Cemetery. When everything shifted to online learning last spring, we developed this for elementary school students and their families. It connected with their learning about immigration and important people in Elmira’s past. If you are interested, download the map and plan on taking about 20-40 minutes to complete the walk. 

Last year we offered Ghostly Readings at the museum. This was an event where staff and Elmira’s Fire Marshall -  our celebrity guest -  read ghost walk scripts for those who were not able to navigate the nighttime walk. We don’t pretend to be actors, but were able to include some extras like images and fun facts about the ghosts. We look forward to offering this again in future years, while this year we have a special treat coming from Elmira College Theater students under the directorship of their Professor, Hannah Hammond. Watch for their short videos popping up on our Facebook page near the end of the month and into November.

Woodlawn Cemetery is a peaceful place to walk during the day, the winding paths through the trees pass a variety of grave sites and monuments. The cemetery was designed and influenced by the Rural Cemetery movement that was happening throughout the United States in the 19th century.

The first cemetery designed in this style was Mount Auburn located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Opened in 1831, it offered a sharp contrast to the existing overcrowded cemeteries in Boston. It was located on the outskirts of town and in addition to being a place to bury their dead, these cemeteries offered urban dwellers a respite from city living. The Rural Cemetery movement intended these places to be as much for the living as for those who had passed on. People were encouraged to visit, picnic and stroll among the grave sites. Designers used an English landscaping approach to highlight the outdoors, and give the impression that the cemetery was a part of wild nature when it was in fact really carefully planned. By providing this natural setting for people, it offered city dwellers the chance to stroll among trees to contemplate life, a very different experience than their daily lives existing in a quickly mechanized society.

A search for how many cemeteries are named Woodlawn brings up 336 throughout the USA and Canada. There are 17 alone in New York state. Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira was designed by architect Howard Daniels and chartered in 1858. It is spread over 184 scenic acres and over the years 80,000 people have been interred there. Today the cemetery is visited walkers, joggers, dogs on leash, and by those with loved ones buried on site. Everyone is welcome to visit as long as they show proper respect and follow the posted guidelines.

Look here to find more blog posts about Woodlawn Cemetery.


No comments:

Post a Comment