Monday, October 18, 2010

Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield

The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is a small part of Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Oak Ridge is a hilly, verdant site, rich with mature trees and stones and statuary, a place well worth visiting even if Lincoln weren't there. But he is there, and claims that it's the second-most visited cemetery in the country after the Arlington National Cemetery, and it's plausible. Another source puts the visitor total of Oak Ridge at 375,000 each year.

People have visited in numbers ever since a crowd came for the tomb's dedication 136 years ago this month, and the place also attracted unsavory characters in the form of unsuccessful grave robbers not long after Lincoln's internment. Even on Sunday morning a week ago, a steady trickle of visitors came to commune with Lincoln.

Curiously, the tomb was in the news in a minor way over the weekend we visited, for plans to install a heating and air-conditioning system based on geothermal technology -- becoming a green tomb, in other words. Not many tombs have HVAC needs, but this one does have interior spaces with climate control. As a geothermal system, out-of-sight underground pipes will be main component. A better choice than putting solar panels on the obelisk, I think.

Oak Ridge is a large cemetery, so Lincoln and his family are hardly alone. From a position in front of the Lincoln tomb and facing away from it, the John Riley Tanner tomb is easy to see, a grey and stony presence. I had to go over and look at that, too. Tanner was the 21st governor of Illinois. When Gov. John Peter Altgeld commited political suicide by pardoning the surviving Haymarket Riot prisoners, Tanner was the beneficiary, unseating Altgeld in 1896.

I knew nothing about Tanner, so I looked him up, scanning Wiki first, and it's a curious entry. Clearly a sympathetic writer had a hand in the article: "He was one of the most remarkable governors of the late nineteenth century," is the second line. I checked the bibliography, and with one exception, a reference work published in 1978, every source cited is from 1920 and earlier. Does that mean there's an opportunity for some enterprising historian to dust off Gov. Tanner, if indeed he's so remarkable?

Highly visible at the entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery is the stone of Roy Bertelli, known for one thing -- his stone in the cemetery.

Part of the Bertelli monument says "Mr. Accordion" and features an image of an accordion cut into the stone (hard to see in my pic, but not this one). Apparently the late Mr. Bertelli erected the stone to annoy the management of Oak Ridge, though it isn't clear from the Roadside America account why the cemetery didn't succeed in stopping him. Anyway, there it is, within accordion-hearing distance of Lincoln's tomb.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home