State backs Boxwood Cemetery for National Register

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2014 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – Massive Medina sandstone pillars are at the entrance of Boxwood Cemetery with a sandstone chapel from 1903 in the background. The State Parks Department nominated the cemetery for the National Register of Historic Places on Thursday.

MEDINA – In 1849, Medina resident David Card expressed his dying wish: “to be buried on the hill north of Medina.” Card got his wish, and his burial was the catalyst for establishing Boxwood Cemetery.

The 20-acre site has become the final resting place for 5,000 people. It is also a distinctive example of several cemetery movements. It was originally established in the Rural Cemetery manner in 1850. The cemetery on North Gravel Road (Route 63) grew in size, and later sections were added in the Lawn Park and Memorial Park styles. The State Parks Department on Thursday nominated the cemetery for the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service, through the U.S. Department of the Interior, will have final say on the cemetery’s inclusion on the Register. If it is approved, it would be the fourth cemetery in Orleans County to make the National Register, following Mount Albion Cemetery, Millville Cemetery in Shelby and Hillside Cemetery in Holley and Clarendon.

The listing gives the sites better access to grants and funding for preservation initiatives.

Boxwood reflects the changing and developing tastes in cemetery design from the mid 19th Century to the late 20th Century, according to the State Parks Department.

Boxwood Cemetery was built on a hill just outside the village. Drawing from contemporary English romantic landscape design ideas, Rural Cemeteries such as Boxwood utilized varied topography, curving drives for carriages and separate pedestrian pathways.

“At Boxwood Cemetery, the basic principles of these design trends, such as the rolling landscape and individual fenced family plots typical of Rural Cemeteries and later the emphasis on the unbroken lawn landscape, were translated for the size and resources of the growing Medina community,” according to the National Register nomination. “As the cemetery grew in size throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Boxwood Cemetery looked to the latest theories and ideas about cemetery design, designing subsequent additions reflective of this evolution.”

The cemetery includes many prominent residents who made an impact locally and beyond. Among those listed in the National Register nomination, include:

Don Bent, who established the local opera house that was a major center of civic, educational, and social affairs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Charles Newton Hood, who ran the opera house and was also a newspaperman.

Edward Davey, an award-winning carriage maker.

Albert L. Swett (gravesite pictured), a prominent businessman who helped put Medina on the map with his company, Swett Iron Works. He is also responsible for bringing electric power to Medina by damming Oak Orchard Creek, located just to the east behind Boxwood Cemetery, thus creating Glenwood Lake as a reservoir to run his electric-generating plant.

John Ryan, who opened the first commercial quarry of Medina sandstone.

Levan Merritt, a successful businessman who helped lay out Boxwood Cemetery.

W.B. Robbins, part owner of a foundry and four-time village president.

Silas M. Burroughs, a general in the New York State Militia, a state assemblyman, and a representative in the U.S. Congress.

Henry A. Childs, a Supreme Court Justice for the Western District of New York.

Irving L’Hommedieu, a state senator.

Edwin Franklin Brown, a wounded Civil War veteran who went on to be the military mayor of Vicksburg, MS during Reconstruction and then became the inspector general of the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. A hospital in Dayton, OH, was named in his honor.

Major General John S. Thompson, who as a captain during World War I was decorated with the British Distinguished Conduct Medal, Belgian Medal, French Service Cross and United States Medal.

George Shattuck, whose books on penmanship were used throughout the world.

Boxwood Cemetery is characteristic of the Rural Cemetery movement. Prior to that movement, most burial grounds tended to be in church yards and associated with a specific denomination, according to Boxwood’s National Register nomination. Rural Cemeteries created a non-sectarian burial place that emphasized romantic associations with picturesque, park-like natural landscapes.

The Village of Medina has owned and maintained Boxwood since it was formally established in 1850.

For more information on Boxwood, click here to see its National Register nomination.