Thursday, August 21, 2008

A window into Eastie's past

For all of my life I've seen the Bennington Street Cemetery and thought it'd be an interesting place to check out some day, and earlier this week I did. The gates of the grounds are usually locked, but one can arrange a visit by calling the city's cemetery division.

The Bennington Street Cemetery was founded in 1838, and most of the gravestones are from the mid-19th century, though a couple are from the 20th. The names are mostly German, Scandinavian, British and Irish -- the ethnicity of the shipyard workers who came to East Boston in the 1800s -- and some veterans of the Civil War and the First World War are buried there as well. Unfortunately, there are quite a few stones that are impossible to read, as time and weather have taken their toll.

The biggest tragedy in the cemetery, however, is the number of gravestones that are broken. Dozens are chipped, cracked or split, and though some have clearly been fixed, quite a few have not. In fact, toward the back fence there is a pile of stone pieces up against a tree (see photo). Maybe the city is in the process of making repairs, but it's more likely that the broken pieces have been sitting there for quite a while.

The Bennington Street Cemetery may be the last piece of land in this neighborhood that looks roughly as it did a century ago, and it's also possible -- depending on where the original islands that make up East Boston were -- that Native Americans tread on that ground. My visit was a morning well spent.


Eastie Girl said...

Hi Jimbo,

First, let me thank you for giving visibility to such a broad range of topics.

My daughter and I have had many discussions about the Bennington St. Cemetery and how it would be great to put together a group to help restore the stones and grounds in general as well as to gather some historical information about those laid to rest there.

I think it would be an invaluable opportunity to not only get in touch with East Boston's history, but our own personal histories.

I would be glad to help organize such a group if you or any of your posters are interested. I guess the first step would be to reach out to the city to determine what their plans are, if any and how best an organized group of citizens can make an impact.

Let me know what you think.

Jimbo said...

I think it's a great idea, and I'd love to help.