Soldiers’ Plot, Springfield, Mass

The Soldiers’ Plot in Springfield Cemetery, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2015:


Springfield Cemetery was established in the 1840s as a beautifully-landscaped city cemetery in the middle of the city.  Within a few decades, it would become the final resting place for a number of men from Springfield who were killed in the Civil War.  A total of 167 were killed or missing in the war, with more lost to disease than to combat deaths.  Many of those men are buried here in the Soldiers’ Plot, not far from the entrance to the cemetery.  The plot includes the headstones at the bottom and top of the slope, with a statue at the top.  The statue was dedicated in 1877 using funds from the Soldier’s Rest Association.  The organization had been established during the war to care for returning veterans, and they used leftover funds to commission the statue.

Today, the headstones and statue are still there, although they are no longer decorated with flags and wreaths, and the landscaping isn’t as perfectly manicured as it was a century ago – the headstones on the lower section seem to almost blend in with the slope.  Of course, in the first photo the Civil War was still in the memory of many people, with many still alive who had either served in or lost loved ones in the war, so it is understandable that the plot would have been better cared for back then.

Cemetery Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The road to Springfield Cemetery, Springfield, Mass, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The road in 2014:


Both views here show the road leading to Springfield Cemetery from Maple Street, with the first photo showing the arch from this post.  This main entrance to the cemetery was designed by Reverend William B. O. Peabody in 1845, and today this road is still the way in and out of the cemetery, but there are some dramatic differences.  The arch is gone, as are the white picket fences, replaced with chain-link fences, and the narrow, rutted dirt road is now paved with asphalt.  Today, there are small trees along either side of the road, but they pale in comparison to the ones that once formed a canopy of branches over the road; they were probably the same trees that Peabody himself had planted some 60 years earlier.

Springfield Cemetery Arch, Springfield, Mass

The arch at the entrance to Springfield Cemetery in Springfield, Mass, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2015:


Springfield Cemetery is one of those places that is hard to find unless you’re looking for it.  In fact, it was hard to find on my first visit, and I was looking for it.  Once in the cemetery, it’s hard to tell that you’re in the middle of a cemetery, and this was done intentionally.  Modeled after the beautifully-landscaped Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., Springfield Cemetery demonstrates a similar desire to create a peaceful, park-like setting.

As seen in the first photo, visitors to the cemetery once passed under the dramatic stone arch, which was built in 1845, just a few years after the cemetery opened.  I don’t know when or why the arch was removed, but my guess is it probably had something to do with traffic concerns; getting modern vehicles through it would probably be a tight f