The Subdividing of a Cemetery Into Sections, Lots and Single Grave Districts
From the publication: AACS – Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Convention
Held at New York City, NY
September 14, 15 and 16, 1909
It should be understood that the following notes apply more particularly to cemetery tracts of the larger sizes, not especially diversified in topography, adjoining the larger cities and in which the first cost of the ground is high and the expenses of development heavy.
It may be stated that they are written more especially for conditions where the platted lots represent a cost of $2,000 and upwards per acre, exclusive of buildings, and where the average price obtained per square foot is 75¢ or more it being understood also that a large proportion of the lot and grave owners are of the poorer classes and necessarily desirous of being as economical in their expenditures as possible. In those cemeteries where the first cost of the ground and the subsequent development are low, a more liberal allowance as to the sizes in the smaller lots and the space allowed for the single graves will be permissible.
It is always to be remembered, however, that every additional foot of ground entails a continuing additional expense for future care that every foot of ground needlessly used for drives, either by excessive width of the roadway or by providing for more drives than are absolutely necessary, is a serious burden for the future. There is not only the loss of the receipts from the sale of the ground so wasted, but the continuing heavy expense of maintaining the extra driveway, which is very much greater than the expense of maintaining the same area in lawn or shrubbery planted ground.
The sizes and shapes of the sections will, of course, be determined by the general landscape plan and the layout of the roads each separate tract surrounded by driveways being considered a section, although it will generally be found advisable to divide the spaces lying between the driveways and the boundaries of the cemetery into several sections by lines cut through the narrower parts. It is not a good practice to arrange for the driving of carts into the sections for the purpose of removing grave dirt and the like and the writer believes it is generally abandoned.
For convenience in working, therefore, these sections having drives on both sides should not exceed 300 feet in width except where the lay of the ground makes it absolutely necessary and on the other hand they should not be greatly less than 200 feet in width, both through motives of economy and from the standpoint of general effect. The sections along the boundaries which have a drive on only one side should not exceed 150 feet, nor be less than 100 feet in width as a general rule. It is our custom considering the high cost value of the property, to allow only ten feet free space between the boundary sections and the line fence, this, of course, being densely planted to trees and shrubbery. The formal hedge-like appearance which it would otherwise obtain being avoided by running the planting out at intervals, somewhat more thinly, into the lots.
The length of the sections should not be less than three times their width and we find sections 700 to 800 feet long not to be objectionable. The laying out of these long sections saves the loss of ground, the expense of making and the maintenance of large areas of driveways.
Another point to be considered is that practically all the vistas in cemetery landscape are down the drives and the adjacent lots, and the only way that long and attractive views can be obtained is by long sweeps of slightly swinging drives the adjacent lots being deep, the monuments being placed at the back part of the lot and planting undulating towards and away from the driveways to conceal many of the monuments in the long vistas and partly conceal practically all of them. It is to be hoped however, in this connection that no cemetery superintendent will attempt to make the final layout of his grounds without calling in the assistance of some landscape architect who has had long and successful experience in the laying out of cemeteries.
No matter how competent the superintendent is or how long his experience in cemetery work has been, his training is in the line of administration and development and the writer believes that in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred the aid of an experienced landscape gardener will be of untold value, not only to the superintendent himself but to those who employ him. It is not the business of the cemetery superintendent to design a cemetery. His work is to develop the cemetery after the plans are made and to administer the affairs in a businesslike way. He is not an artist but a hard-headed business man. Of course, it is necessary that he have a wide knowledge of the technical parts of the work and thoroughly appreciate the results desired to be obtained from the plans. The work of laying out the cemetery should be done by consultation between the landscape gardener and the superintendent, the former giving his wide knowledge and general experience, the latter modifying the ideas of the former to fit the particular conditions with which he is necessarily so familiar.
When the point of the subdivision of the sections into lots is• reached, then the work must be done by the superintendent. Conditions in the different cemeteries differ so greatly that it is impossible to properly and economically subdivide the section without an exact and intimate knowledge of local conditions and of the character and wishes of the people who patronize the cemetery. In those cemeteries where a large proportion of the lot buyers are well-to-do or wealthy people, the lots, of course, will be laid out into larger sizes and less regard will be paid to keeping them in shapes best, adapted for the maximum number of burials with the minimum use of ground. On the other hand, in cemeteries where a large proportion of the lot buyers belong to the poorer classes the lots must be laid out in smaller sizes, as nearly rectangular as possible and the dimensions so figured as to allow the greatest possible number of burials in the smallest space.
Returning again to the subject of vistas along the drives, the reasons given there make it necessary that the lots adjoining the drives be large ones and that they have good depth a minimum depth of twenty feet should be the standard and this should be increased to forty feet or more to as great an extent as it is possible to dispose of such large lots. A planting space of not less than two feet should be left between the lots and the drives. This is useful as a place for the laying of water pipes and occasional drains, forms a protection to the lot against vehicles and horses and prevents the setting of any headstone too close to the drive. A wider space up to four feet would be desirable from many points of view, but considering the loss of ground and the expense of maintenance it is not to be generally advised.
The minimum depth of the front lot, as stated, is twenty feet. This, with the planting space of two feet, gives a depth to the back of the lot of twenty-two feet and if the monument is placed within a foot or so of the back of the lot and the other lots on the other side of the drive are treated in a similar way, an open stretch of ground of fifty feet or more, including the drive, is preserved unobstructed by monumental structures. Adjoining the front lot and extending back to a four foot walk parallel with the drive should be another lot a little shallower than the front lot perhaps, or of equal depth. The minimum depth, however, of any lot should not be less than 17 feet. This gives space for two tiers of graves with their headstones (16 feet) and six inches between the borders of the lot and the ends of the graves, which should be the minimum allowance, one foot, of course, being better.
Where some very large lots are desired and the laying out of the whole outer border into very deep lots would produce too many of the larger sizes, they can be alternated, one lot running clear over to the back walk, being 37 feet or more in depth, the next being cut into two, a front lot of 20 feet and a back lot of 17 feet. A walk of four feet in width, it will be noted, has been recommended. The writer has found it an absolute waste to layout any walk over four feet in width. This gives ample space for drains and water pipes and as there is no teaming in the sections, there is no need for anything wider. At occasional intervals cross walks are to be constructed, running in as far as the first walk, at right angles with the drive and then going square across the center of the section on lines best adapted to the rectangular subdivision of the inside, turning again at the opposite side of the section to meet the opposite drive at right angles.
Several points must be considered in determining the width of the lots on the drives. It should be understood that all dividing lines between these lots must be erected perpendicular to the drive. The width of the front of the lot where it is desired to make the lots rather small and especially where the drive curves outward strongly, must be fixed by a. minimum width of the inside lot on the walk, as it is to be remembered that setting the dividing lines perpendicular to the drive makes them approach more closely as they come to the inside walk and if the front on the drive is made narrow, the front on the inside walk will be too short. In such cases it will be necessary to space off minimum widths along the walk for the inside lots and let the frontage of the outside ones come as it will by dropping perpendiculars. On the other hand, where the drive curves in, the reverse condition will exist and the minimum frontages must be spaced along the drive and the perpendiculars allowed to strike where they will on the inside walk.
One of the main things to be done in dividing a section into lots is to see at the time that no subsequent grouping or crowding of monuments can possibly occur. Where a large demand exists for small lots, it is an excellent practice to layout alternately two wide ones and then two narrow ones, the narrow ones to be sold with the agreement, which is entered in the deed, that no monument shall be ever erected upon them. In this way a large number of very: desirable small lots can be provided and yet the general appearance of the grounds be in no way injured.
Our practice in the cheaper parts of the cemetery is to make these small lots 8½ or 11 feet front in the narrow part. By placing burials close together this gives three graves in width and allows a six inch space between the outer graves and the lot line. An 8½ foot front by 17 feet deep will give six graves with headstones. We do not in practice, however, layout anything less than 18 feet deep. In the larger lots grave spaces of 3×9 are allowed and from that on up to 4×10. When this part of the work is decided upon and the lots staked with temporary wooden stakes, we have a planting space of two feet wide running entirely around the section, a lot 20 feet or more in depth back of that, another lot 18 feet or more in depth further back and adjoining it, and a walk four feet in width running entirely around the section and parallel with the drive, connected at convenient intervals by cross walks with the drives. These lots, will none of them be square, although where the drive does not curve very much, they are approximate rectangles and the stronger the curve of the drive the more wedge shaped they will be.
Enclosed by this walk is the center area of the section and the aim should be to divide this area into rectangular plots of sizes adapted to meet the requirements of the lot buyers. Unless this part of the section is very desirable and is well elevated, it is proper to subdivide it into small lots, in so far as they are needed. Our own practice in regard to very small plots, that is three and four grave lots, is to layout lots 17 feet front and 18 feet in depth. These can be re-divided into halves, making two 6 grave lots, or .into quarters making four 3 grave lots, or into two spaces 9×11 and one space 6×18, making three 4 grave lots all of these small lots, of course, to be sold without the monument privilege. A lot on which a monument is to be erected should not be less than 20 feet in depth and the maximum frontage should not be less than 11 feet. This width is almost too narrow, however, unless on each side of the lot a no-monument lot is laid out. Two monument lots 11 feet front and adjoining each other will bring the monuments less than 10 feet apart, which is certainly an objectionable practice. In the no-monument lot the size of 11×19 covers an 8 grave lot, or 13½x18 covers a 10 grave lot. 11X20 and 13½x20 make monument lots of similar capacity. In the better parts of the ground 12X20 is a more desirable size for an 8 grave lot and from that on up.
Careful planning is necessary to avoid, as far as possible, triangular lots or lots with long, sharp, tapering corners. Of course, some spaces of this kind will be unavoidable, but it is our practice to cut off these sharp corners and throw the small triangles into the walk, leaving spaces which can be planted with shrubs or used for waste receptacles if surrounded by shrubbery. In practice each lot, of course, is given a frontage on a walk and if two lots are 18 feet in depth this will make the walks 36 feet apart. Cross walks, of course, must be provided at intervals. We have not found it necessary to make cross walks closer than 200 feet apart, and have not found 240 or even 250 feet very objectionable.
One point to be remembered in the laying out of all lots is to have no curved lines. Curved lot lines as laid out by the surveyor by the swinging of a radial line, are very objectionable and very difficult to re-establish after monuments and headstones are erected on the lots. If the drive curves very strongly so that a straight line drawn from corner to corner of the front leaves too much width in the planting space, one or two points may be set in along the roadway two feet from its edge and straight lines may be drawn connecting them, the idea being to have every boundary line of a lot a straight line which can always be verified and the points replaced if necessary. In the case of a circular section, which, by the way, is an abomination, points may be set at frequent intervals, maintaining the circular edge of the roadway but making the lot an octagon or similar figure. Small triangular sections, which are always to be avoided when possible, or if they are used must be sold at a very high price in order to reimburse for the waste ground and the additional driveway, may be laid out by erecting perpendiculars from the center of each of• the three sides to meet at a middle point, making three lots. The pointed ends of other sections may, of course, be thrown into one lot in this way. In laying out walks, due regard must be had for the general direction of the travel. If the natural course of visitors is lengthways of the section, then the walks must be run largely lengthways, otherwise paths will be worn across the lots.
It should be born in mind that every foot of ground in a walk is not only a loss but a constant future expense for care, and much study must be given to so laying out the lots that the minimum amount of ground will be wasted in walks.
After all the lots are staked temporarily, a rough plat or sketch of the section should be made, the lots given their proper numbers, and concrete corner posts prepared and set at the outside corners, or such other markers as may be decided on. The inside corners may be marked by white topped terra cotta markers. The plan in force for marking lots with us, which has worked exceedingly well and saved much time by reason of the visitors being able to find the lots without having some one sent to show them the way, is to have the outside corner posts made eight inches square (we should reduce this to about 6 inches, however, except for the sake of uniformity, having started on the 8-inch basis). Each marker contains the word “Sec.” and the number of the section. In addition to that the word “Lot” is twice repeated and the numbers of two lots, it being set one-half in each lot. In this way the visitor, by finding one corner stone, knows immediately what section he is in. The stones are made of concrete 18 inches deep and are faced off like a cement sidewalk the letters and figures are properly assembled in a form and pressed in at one operation. The expense of these posts, set in place, of course, flush with the ground, is about 35¢, dependent largely on the cost of material, with labor at $2 per day. It is very strongly to be advised that all corner stones be made and set at once. The work can be done very much cheaper if all are set at once instead of setting one by one as the lots are sold there is no subsequent trouble over the loss of stakes, no subsequent variation by errors in replacing stakes with the stones and if the work is done in this way the final surveying, measuring and platting of the lots can be left until the permanent markers are in. In addition to this it will be found a great convenience in showing and selling lots and make it possible to largely avoid the exceedingly annoying error of showing a man one lot and giving him a deed for another number. If the cemetery is laid out into 200 foot square, the intersections, of the lot lines with the lines of those 200 foot squares can be noted, the lots then measured up and platted very readily.
Single graves are of two classes–the common single grave which is designed to be sold at the very lowest possible price, and the select or preferred single grave which is practically a small lot for one interment. The less desirable parts of the grounds should be selected for single grave districts, and preferably they should be adjoining the boundary of the cemetery and in a location where the visitors to the lots will not pass them. They should, also, if possible, be so located that the crowds of people going to and from the single graves will not be tempted to cross other sections and wear paths in the sod. A very large area should be provided, if possible, to cover all needs in common single graves for many years. This should be of sufficient width to take 50 or more adult graves side by side and should adjoin a drive. A very good practice is to call this one large lot and to subdivide it into long strips at right angles to the drive. These strips are of sufficient width to take an adult grave and headstone that is, 8 feet in width and if calculated for 50 graves should be 125 feet long, 2½ feet being allowed for each grave space rough boxes in this locality running 26 or 28 inches wide. Of course, where the general run of adult rough boxes is wider, more space will have to be allowed. These tiers are numbered generally from the south line of the lot north, as Tier 1 North, Tier 2 North, etc. the graves in each tier being numbered from the driveway. An 8-inch square stone is set along the drive at each tier, marked “Sec. -, Lot -, Tier I North,” etc. and another similar stone should be placed at the other end of the tier. By stretching a line between these two stones, all the graves in the tier can be carefully lined up and the headstones can easily be set in the proper location. The grave spaces being accurately maintained, if it is desired to find any grave in the tier, no matter if all stakes and other markers have disappeared, it is simply a case for careful measurement. The graves in the tiers are to be marked with round cement or tile markers, each marker bearing two numbers the number of the tier above, which will be the same for each grave in the tier, and below, the number of the grave in the tier, which, of course, will vary for each grave. The description of any grave is entered in the grave receipt as follows: “Lot _, Section _, Tier __ North, Grave __”. With this description and a little explanation it will be found that the grave owners can in almost all cases locate the grave they are looking for, thus saving a very large amount of time in the future which would otherwise be used in pointing out the location. It will be noted in this article that the writer pays no attention to laying out the grounds for the burial of bodies east and west. In the locality of Chicago the old idea that all bodies should be buried due east and west has been abandoned and no attention whatever is paid to the points of the compass. The lots face in all directions and the burial is made entirely with reference to the conditions of the individual lot. Headstones, of course, in the single grave sections will be kept very low, preferably not over six inches high, will be limited to one foot in thickness and not less than six inches and should be made six inches narrower than the width of the grave that is, 24 inches, or less. Between every four tiers, that are 32 feet apart, four foot walks are placed for drains, water pipes and access. Of course, this system contemplates that no mounds whatever shall be raised on the common single graves. The burials are begun at the point farthest from the drive and progress towards the drive, to avoid passing over the graves already buried. The select or preferred graves are a higher priced proposition and should be of larger area and may be in better locations. We have found it a not bad proposition to take small lots here and there in the cheaper sections of six or eight grave, capacity and divide them, selling them out singly. They being so few in number and being maintained in the same way as the lot graves, they have not been found to be objectionable. (These graves are numbered on the same plan as the common singles that is, the description of any grave will carry the lot and section number and will be Tier __ North, East or West as the case may be, and Grave __, North, East, or West, as the case may be. * * *
The laying out of lots and single grave districts is not a matter in itself of great difficulty, although it requires accuracy in the making of the final plat and very careful study. Bad judgment used in this work is costly, either when it causes waste of ground or when it results in an awkward and inconvenient layout. After the plat is recorded and sales are once started in the section no changes can be made, hence the maxim to be observed is “Make haste slowly and study carefully.” The foregoing, as stated in the beginning, applies largely to the laying out of lots in cemeteries where the ground is fairly uniform in its character. The more broken and diverse the character of the sections, the more will the superintendent be compelled to vary from thee plans suggested here.
It will be found very difficult to sell a lot which lies lower than the adjacent walk or drive hence it is evident that where there are depressions in the shape of small gullies, walks shall in all cases follow them. Where circular depressions exist, in grading the section they will, of course, be filled to a certain extent. It is an axiom that no part of a section should be so graded as to allow water to stand upon it. Of course the superintendent will take advantage of mounds and desirable parts of the sections to lay them out in large lots and will be guided by the slope of the ground in setting his stakes and in facing his lots.
In a general way the less desirable parts of the sections will be cut into small lots and the more desirable the ground the larger the lot this simply as a plain business proposition. The prominent parts at intersections of the drives should be laid out into one or several large lots and if the point of the section is quite sharp it will be advisable to cut back the lot some little distance and use the space so left out for the planting of shrubbery.
While not coming strictly within the scope of this paper, the pricing of lots is intimately connected with it and a few words may be advisable. The writer does not believe in pricing lots to the customer by the square foot. Separate prices should be fixed for each lot as a whole. These can be arrived at by fixing a square foot basis for a certain section or for parts of the section, estimating the area and obtaining the price in that way, adding a little to the prices of the more desirable lots and perhaps deducting a little from the lots which will be less readily saleable.
For instance, it will be found that lots on the drive or on an elevated part of the section will be sold very readily and in order to prevent their being taken up immediately the section is placed on sale, a material advance must be made in the price of such lots, the general idea being to price each lot according to the sale ability. It is our practice to increase the price of the lots bordering on drives about 10 to 15 percent to add about 10 percent, to corner lots or to lots having a walk on two of their sides.
In the smaller lots it is also the practice to add about 10 percent, to a lot on which a monument is allowed over that on which one is not allowed, or if it is not desired to increase the total price of the section, an advance of 5 percent could be made on the monument lot and a reduction of 5 percent on the lot on which no monument is allowed That is a good proposition in several ways. In the first place it costs more to care for a lot with a monument on it than one on which there is no monument. In the second place it is well worth while to offer inducements to the small lot owner to dispense with a monument.
The writer is not averse to a reasonable number of monuments of good design and material in a cemetery and believes it will be found impossible to prevent their use. The monument is with us and with us to stay. The evils of the monument are good monuments badly placed bad monuments, that is, of poor material or faulty design, wherever placed, and the crowding of monuments. The poor material and the faulty design are found largely in the cheaper class of lots and the classes of people who buy these lots have a strong tendency to save on the size of the lot and put the money into a monument, thereby frequently making the monument just that much more hideous and unsightly. I would not be understood as taking the position that a small monument cannot be just as attractive and just as artistic as a large one. In theory they can be, in practice they are not.
It is well to adopt a standard scale of all plats. Perhaps the best scale for the original plat is one of 20 feet to the inch. Larger than this becomes unwieldy and a smaller scale does not allow sufficient space. The original plat should be made on a first class quality of cloth backed paper and all construction figures should appear thereon. From this a tracing can be made for record, and in this connection it should be noted that, in the state of Illinois, at least, a severe penalty is provided for those who fail to have a plat of each section recorded with the public recorder before making sales. For working plats, blue prints, etc., a reduced plat to the scale of 40 feet to the inch may be made. A copy of this on tracing cloth with the lines drawn somewhat heavier and the numbers and dimension figures also made heavier, may be reduced photographically for a zinc etching at a very small expense and this can be printed from’ very cheaply, thus making it possible to furnish each lot owner with a plat of the section in which his lot is, so that he can readily locate it without having to take the time of the employees in showing him where it is.
International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association