Eugene Masonic Cemetery
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Masonic Cemetery and Hope Abbey Mausoleum
|Location||25th and University Sts., Eugene, Oregon|
|Area||10.1 acres (4.1 ha)|
|Architect||Lawrence, Ellis F.; Portland Mausoleum Co.|
|NRHP Reference #||80003336|
|Added to NRHP||September 15, 1980|
The Eugene Masonic Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Eugene, Oregon, is one of the oldest privately owned and continuously operating historic entities in Lane County. Incorporated as a burial site in 1859, the same year Oregon became a state, it occupies ten acres on a knoll in southeast Eugene, with main entrance gate at University Street and 25th Avenue. The cemetery contains Hope Abbey Mausoleum which, together with the cemetery itself, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
The cemetery was originally owned by Masonic Lodge No.11, but has been owned and operated since 1994 by the non-profit Eugene Masonic Cemetery Association, whose board members are volunteers. It retains Masonic in its name as an important historic reference, but is no longer officially affiliated with Freemasonry.
The cemetery was established on a treeless hill in the country outside Eugene. For many years it was one of the principal resting places chosen for Eugene's prominent citizens, a number of whom are listed below. Through many generations and in varying conditions it was managed by the local Masonic lodge, but eventually the load became too much, and the site, overrun by weeds and blackberries and subject to vandalism, became a matter of public concern. The City of Eugene, with co-operation from the Masonic Lodge, began a process that resulted in transfer of ownership to a new Eugene Masonic Cemetery Association (EMCA).
The Association's immediate goal was to reverse generations of neglect, and its primary aim remains the restoration and interpretation of this historic resource. Since 1994, EMCA has largely restored the native and heritage landscape of the cemetery. Over $200,000 has been invested in restoration of Hope Abbey Mausoleum and repair of hundreds of damaged historic tombstones. The goal of historic interpretation resulted in production of a book, Full of Life, numerous brochures and over 50 interpretive signs on site. These and many other improvements have transformed the cemetery from an urban disaster to an urban amenity.
Originally treeless and, like the valley floor, covered with prairie grasses and wildflowers, the cemetery is now dominated by a mature stand of Douglas-fir trees, together with a wide variety of understory species. One of the EMCA's first acts was the development of a landscape plan, which emphasizes the cultivation of native plants—more than 100 native species of plants can be found in the cemetery—and the preservation of the site's unique qualities as an island of tranquility in an urban setting. In 2006 the Eugene Tree Foundation presented its award for excellence in stewardship of an urban forest to EMCA. Mowing is limited from early spring through late fall to allow the native plants to flourish and provide an uninterrupted display.
The cemetery was initially formally platted in a grid with streets and alleys. Numerous family plots, measuring 20×20 feet, were purchased by pioneer subscribers for 15 dollars. Over the years, the Eugene Masonic Cemetery has remained an active cemetery, and even today a limited number of in-ground burial spaces are still available. A scatter garden for burial of cremated remains was created in 1997, and a Jewish section of the cemetery has been defined and consecrated.
Over 50 historic markers describing notable early Eugeneans are maintained near gravesites. An on-site bulletin board is provided, and Hope Abbey is a venue for occasional lectures and musical performances.
Hope Abbey is a mausoleum that was designed in the Egyptian Revival style by Ellis F. Lawrence and dedicated in 1914. Its distinctive architecture includes a massive entrance archway, with lotus blossom urns and bundles of papyrus on either side of the copper-clad doors. Details include Egyptian symbols above the entrance: the circular disc representing the sun, twin cobras denoting death, and vulture wings symbolizing protection and maternal care. The history of the mausoleum has been extensively researched, including its restoration after years of neglect. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Hope Abbey Mausoleum was dedicated on June 14, 1914 at the southwest corner of the Eugene Masonic Cemetery which, in turn, was founded in 1859 by Masonic Lodge #11 at the request of the city. Over the years, both the cemetery and the mausoleum had been vandalized repeatedly, and Masonic Lodge #11 did not have the resources for the upkeep of the cemetery or Hope Abbey. In 1995, with the active assistance of the City of Eugene, ownership of the cemetery, including Hope Abbey, was turned over to the Eugene Masonic Cemetery Association (EMCA), a non-profit organization, whose Board of Directors members are volunteers.
Since 1995, Hope Abbey has been largely restored. A new roof, proper drainage, a wheelchair accessible front porch, electrical service and a working lavatory are among the improvements. The eighty glass clerestory windows that had been bricked up as protection against vandalism have been reopened and reproduction stained glass windows by local glass artisan John Rose allow sunlight to once again illuminate the interior. Additional work will continue as funds permit.
Hope Abbey, with crypts and niches still available for purchase, is normally kept secure and locked, but the huge doors are opened to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. on the last Sunday of each month except December, as well as on special occasions such as Memorial Day weekend or for musical events.
City founder Eugene Skinner and Oregon's first governor, John Whiteaker, are buried here, as well as many Civil War veterans. More recent burials include those of 20th century radio personality Carolyn Spector and blues disc jockey “Rooster” Gavin Fox. Notables include presidents of both the University of Oregon and Northwest Christian College. Names from prominent local families such as Chambers, Friendly, Condon, Luckey, Collier, McCornack, and Kerns pepper the hillside. An extensive list of burials is available on the EMCA web site.
Hope Abbey also contains the remains of a number of prominent members of the Eugene business, academic and professional communities, some of whom are listed in the book, Full of Life, published by the EMCA.
The Eugene Masonic Cemetery Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a Board of Directors, a Cemetery Administrator and a Site Manager. Money raised for the restoration and operation of the Masonic cemetery totals over one million dollars. An endowment has been begun. Work is also accomplished through matching grants, in-kind business contributions, pro bono professional help and a vast number of volunteer hours. It is the largest cemetery restoration project in Oregon, and is considered a model throughout the state.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Moore, McCornack, McCready (1995). The Story of Eugene. Lane County Historical Society.
- Holbo, McQuiddy, Seidel, Wyant (c. 1999). Full of Life. Eugene Masonic Cemetery Association.
- Eugene Masonic Cemetery
- Hope Abbey Mausoleum
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eugene Masonic Cemetery.|
- Official website (includes an extensively researched account of the cemetery's history, with information about notable burials there.)
- Hope Abbey Mausoleum