No stone unturned: Report details restoration work needed at Old Burial Hill

Nearly 170 Old Burial Hill grave markers and foot stones need varying degrees of tender loving care, a recent assessment of the historic cemetery’s gravestones, tombs and markers found.

A scenic Old Burial Hill during autumn in Marblehead. [COURTESY PHOTO / OLIVIA MOBBS]

The Arlington-based Building and Monument Conservation report prioritizes and outlines nearly $75,000 worth of restoration and conservation work, from resetting stone to installing pins to rejoin separated markers. Old Burial Hill Oversight Committee members are busy digesting the report and prioritizing which stone makers to tackle first.

“The town approved a $10,000 budget, which will become an annual occurrence,” said Marblehead Town Planner Rebecca Curran Cutting. “There is a lot that needs to be done.”

“We will select the priority stones to be restored,” Cutting told Marblehead News. “Priority stones will be the ones in worst shape, cracked or on the ground.”

She added, “Once decided, we will have specifications written and then have the work done.”

The report breaks down work by dollar amount, too, the following ways:

Repair 15 headstones $1,000$15,000
Repair five foot-stones$600$3,000
Restore 72 headstones$400$28,800
Reset 63 foot stones$125$7,875
Reset approx. 150 smaller markers$125$18,750

Cutting said the assessment report updates a 2010 Old Burial Hill assessment, information on which the Old Burial Hill Oversight Committee carried out two rounds of restoration and conservation work in 2012 and 2013.

“Old Burial Hill is in better condition than it was in 2010,” writes Ivan Myjer of Building and Monuments Conservation in the 2022 report’s executive summary. “The 2010 survey indicated that roughly 20 percent of the grave markers in the burial ground required some level of treatment and resetting.”

Myjer added, “The current survey indicated that less than 3 percent of the markers required repair, and roughly 17 percent require resetting.”

Several grave markers and foot stones sustained damage from lawn care. That, however, has dissipated over the past dozen years.

“In 2010, damage from impact with lawn care was identified as the single greatest cause of damage to the markers in the burying ground,” the report reads. “The markers that are currently most vulnerable to damage from lawn-care equipment are the small slate and marble foot stones.”

Tall grass can conceal foot stones, and others lying down on the ground or tilted need resetting.

“Some of the smaller slate headstones are set very low in the ground,” the report reads. “This makes them even harder to see when the grass is at its highest.”

Resetting and repairs will not come without difficulty, given Old Burial Hill’s terrain, with its slopes and small mounds. Small markers often sink deeper when frozen ground melts, the report points out.

Marblehead’s Old Burial Hill head stones among lush green grass. [COURTESY PHOTO / NEWENGLANDHISTORY1]

“There is a very high likelihood that some of the foot stones that are set so low because the marker is broken and the lower section is effectively missing or still in the ground,” writes Myjer.

An estimated 1,000 grave markers make up Old Burial Hill, a 388-year-old cemetery situated on a hill with stunning harbor and ocean views.

“Out of 640 headstones, 120 predate 1740,” the town’s website reads.

There are grave markers of 60 Revolutionary War veterans, including the town’s beloved Gen. John Glover. However, there are some 600 Revolutionary War veterans in all interred on the historic site.

+ posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: