Our First Public Parks

From tiny plots to wide-open "rural cemeteries" and modern "memorial parks," the evolving design of cities of the dead

"Before 1831, America had no cemeteries. It's not that Americans didn't bury their dead—just that large, modern graveyards did not exist. But with the construction of Mount Auburn Cemetery, a large burial ground in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the movement to build cemeteries in America began."

"In his recently released Cemeteries, Keith Eggener, an associate professor of American art and architecture at the University of Missouri, uses more than 600 archival photos to depict the evolution of American cemeteries from small family plots into these very first "rural cemeteries" and, later, the less scenic 20th-century "memorial parks." Alongside this visual tour, Eggener offers historical context, explaining how the living have interacted with these resting places for the dead. Eggener spoke with The Atlantic about what drew him to these morbid locales, and how the design of cemeteries has reflected America's feelings about death."