Thursday, November 10, 2016

That's So Pittsburgh: Homewood Cemetery

This week I got Thursday off, and the weather was fine--the kind of day when your cheeks get cold but you don't mind--so Dear Husband and I went for an afternoon walk in Homewood Cemetery. We tramped up the hill and through the fallen leaves, discussing our future surrounded by so many people's pasts.

At the top of the hill stands a veritable city of  mausoleums for Pittsburgh's monied elite. "They all lived next to each other in life," quipped DH, "and they're sleeping next to each other in death, too." Many of the little marble houses for the dead shared similar Greek-inspired architecture, with stained-glass windows in the rear and bronze doors locked and bolted in the front. One still contains the remains of what appears to be an American flag original to World War I, when Capt. Alfred Hicks (1837-1916), veteran of "the War of the Rebellion," gloriously passed away at the age of 79. I wonder what sort of "disability" allowed him to be honorably discharged less than 1 month after enlisting as a private in 1861, but that did not hinder him from becoming a 2nd lieutenant in a different outfit 6 months later. According to the obituary available on, he was in the Ford Theater the night President Lincoln was assassinated, and later got into the railroad, coal, and steel businesses. "He was one of the most widely known men in the Allegheny Valley."

The life-sized statue by George A. Lawson at top right is entitled "Motherless" (1897); DH and I surmised that it memorialized the departed wife of Mr. James Ross Mellon (1846-1934) and mother of his child, but a quick Google search revealed that the sculpture was originally in his garden, but none of his heirs wanted it.

Who builds themselves a pyramid-shaped tomb in western PA, 20 years before they die?
Come on, you know this guy was an asshole in real life, too.
(The answer is William Harry Brown [1856-1921], who made his money shipping coal on the rivers.)

In the Jewish section of the cemetery, the newer grave markers are often quite fancy, featuring engravings of the deceased and tokens of their hobbies. Above, you can see that Erwin is waiting to be reunited with his soulmate. Among the stones left for him is a golf ball, so you know he was a Mensch on the course. Below left is the most creative memorial we found on our walk, for a woman who died this spring. Her loved ones have left potted plants, seashells...and mini Diet Coke cans with straws.

Finally, we had to laugh when, on our way home, we passed the tombstone of one "Addison Murray Imbrie, Atty. at Law," who is still advertising for himself from beyond the grave. On the other side of his marker is a condensation of Mark Twain's sentimental poem "Warm Summer Sun":

Warm summer sun,
    Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
    Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
    Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
    Good night, good night.
Adapted from Robert Richardson's poem “Annette.”

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this installment of the That's So Pittsburgh series, you might also like our visit to Beulah Cemetery, or to these Churches.

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