Death and the Suburbs

The pastoral cemetery developed at the same time as the first suburb - as counterpoint and antidote to the unruly chaos of the nineteenth-century city. Curving lanes, "organic" plans, leafy arbors, and the gentle surprises of rolling landscape characterized urban cemeteries like Greenwood in Brooklyn, Laurel Hill in Philadelphia, and Mountain View in Oakland. In the tradition of ancient Rome, each began as a sub-urban, verdant necropolis on the outskirts of cities that would soon envelop them.

As architectural historian Aaron Wunsch has pointed out: replace the monumental tombstones with large houses and one finds the essential aesthetic of the early suburb. The key planners of the period transposed their designs for cemeteries and suburbs. Frederick Law Olmsted designed both, guided by the same aesthetic principles.