Category Archives: benches

Sitting Pretty: Benches in Hollywood Cemetery

Walking up and down the slopes of Hollywood Cemetery is sure to get tiring after a while.  If you’re feeling a bit weary, perhaps you might want to take a rest on one of the many benches scattered about the grounds.  While some of these benches have been positioned in the most-visited places by the cemetery management, most are located on plots themselves.  Usually made of granite or wrought iron, families build them as a place for loved ones to rest while they visit the gravesite.

This iron bench, woven in intricate branch and floral designs, sits near the Alsop grave in the middle of a shady glen.  It is of some poor condition – the once shiny black metal has begun to corrode and peel away, leaving it rough and discolored.  It creaks when sat upon and leaves rust stains on your hands when touched, but still stands firm.

alsop bench

Interestingly, the bench does not face the grave itself, but stands next to it and faces the neighboring hill of graves.  This position indicates the visitor is not meant to merely contemplate the headstone, but admire the garden-esque grounds.  Hollywood, with its old trees and short-cut grasses and graves of all shapes and sizes, represents something more than simply a burial ground.  It is a place in keeping with the message of the rural cemetery movement and resembles a park, a cross between urban structures and the wilderness, rather than a crowded city churchyard.  Meticulously sculpted so that it has no overlook point, the cemetery reflects the classic American ideal of natural beauty: variations in the landscape, hills and dells, streams and woodlands.

Sitting on the Alsop bench illustrates how the striking scenery exists for the pleasure of cemetery visitors who seek a retreat from urban setting.  This notion suggests Hollywood Cemetery, and by extension the entire rural cemetery movement, strives for a change in the image of gravesites from the traditional small graveyard to a spacious recreational site.  The benches are somewhere for the living to rest within the dead’s final resting place.

Regardless of its state of slight disrepair, this functional feature gives a welcoming feel to the plots, inviting passersby not only to sit and reflect on those who’ve passed on, but simply to enjoy the day.