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H.W.S. CLEVELAND, DESIGNER OF CONCORD'S SLEEPY HOLLOW

By Leslie Perrin Wilson, Curator of Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library. This article was previously printed in the Concord Journal.

The Alcott family grave markerSince its dedication on September 29, 1855, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has been a source of pride for the town, the final resting place for many local residents, and -- largely because of the constellation of 19th century literary luminaries buried on Authors' Ridge -- a tourist stop for thousands of pilgrims to Concord.

Laid out on land purchased from the estate of Deacon Reuben Brown, Sleepy Hollow was named, according to George Bradford Bartlett in his 1880 Concord Guide Book, for the natural "amphitheatre" that "had borne the name of Sleepy Hollow long before it was thought of as a burial place." (Bartlett's amphitheatre was the larger of two deep hollows, or kettle holes, within the cemetery's bounds.) The choice of name may or may not also have reflected local familiarity with Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," published in 1820 in Irving's Sketch Book. Ralph Waldo Emerson -- Concord's resident philosopher and most recognized citizen -- remarked in his address at the dedication of the cemetery upon Sleepy Hollow's "seclusion from the village in its immediate neighborhood," which had long made the area "an easy retreat on a Sabbath day, or a summer twilight."

As Concord's Superintendent of Grounds during the planning and laying out of Sleepy Hollow, John Shepard Keyes -- lawyer, judge (from 1874), and public official at the local, state, county, and national levels -- was responsible for the maintenance and improvement of the town's cemeteries. Never a man to underplay his role in events, Keyes was inclined to take the lion's share of credit for bringing the cemetery into being. In his manuscript autobiography (part of a rich collection of Keyes papers in the Concord Free Public Library Special Collections), he described laying out the cemetery, driving in the stakes for the lots, sparing "as many trees as possible from cutting," and arranging the dedication ceremonies. He wrote, "Thanks to me we have a 'Sleepy Hollow' cemetery. I am quite content to take my long sleep in [it] and [to take] for my only epitaph "The Founder of This Cemetery."

In fact, at his death in 1910, Keyes was buried in a place of prominence on Authors' Ridge. The epitaph on the large stone he shares for eternity with his first wife, Martha Lawrence Prescott Keyes, proclaims the couple jointly "Founders of This Cemetery."

Important though Keyes was in accomplishing the hands-on work necessary to make Sleepy Hollow a reality, he did not provide the creative vision that transformed the cemetery into the palpable expression of an aesthetic ideal. The plans for the cemetery were drawn by Horace William Shaler Cleveland and Robert Morris Copeland, partners in landscape design. The printed Concord town report for 1855-56 shows that Cleveland and Copeland were paid $75.00 for their work.

Sleep Hollow cemetary Copeland's connection with Sleepy Hollow seems to have left a deeper impression on local memory than did Cleveland's. Just twenty-five years after the cemetery opened, George Bartlett in his guidebook ascribed the plans for it entirely to Copeland, overlooking Cleveland altogether. That Copeland lived in Lexington, closer to Concord than did Cleveland, may have made him the better known of the two to people here. On January 10, 1855, moreover, Copeland delivered a lecture before the Concord Lyceum on "The Useful & The Beautiful" in art, architecture, landscape gardening, and cemetery design, as the manuscript Lyceum records in the Concord Free Public Library reveal. The public visibility that this lecture conferred made him the more likely professional contact with Concord decision-makers than his partner.

But Cleveland was without a doubt responsible in some measure for the design of Sleepy Hollow, and may well have exerted a greater influence than Copeland on the final result. Even John Shepard Keyes acknowledged in his autobiography that while he laid out Sleepy Hollow "almost alone and unaided," he did so "according to Cleveland's plan." Moreover, unlike Copeland, Cleveland enjoyed a long and continuously productive career as a landscape architect. He shaped public and private landscapes not only in New England but in the expanding American west, as well. In the process, he left behind many examples of public work that suggest just how much Concord's Sleepy Hollow owes to his transcendent -- indeed, transcendental -- sense of the primacy of the natural landscape over design features.

H.W.S. Cleveland was born in 1814 in rural Lancaster, Massachusetts, to sea captain Richard Jeffry Cleveland and his wife Dorcas. In the late 1820s, the Clevelands moved to Cuba, where Richard held a diplomatic position. Having returned to America, young Horace found employment in the 1830s as a surveyor for railroad and real estate interests in Illinois and elsewhere out west. He returned to Massachusetts late in the decade. In the early 1840s, he bought a farm near Burlington, New Jersey, where he took up scientific farming and began writing for the Horticulturist, a periodical edited by renowned landscape gardener, architect, and horticulturist Andrew Jackson Downing.

RW Emerson's grave Cleveland moved back to Massachusetts in 1854 (he lived first in Salem, then in Danvers), and entered into a partnership in landscape architecture with fellow scientific farmer R.M. Copeland. The design of Sleepy Hollow in the garden cemetery tradition of Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery (1831) was one of their first important commissions. In drawing up their plan, they avoided the imposition of a geometric grid of lots over the terrain, preferring instead to place lots on paths and drives that followed the natural outlines of the land, and respecting native trees and plants.

The two went on to make recommendations for a Boston park system. In 1857, they entered the competition for the design of New York's Central Park, which Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux won. Cleveland and Copeland parted ways before the Civil War. Copeland served in the war and subsequently established his own landscape design practice, which thrived until his sudden death in 1872.

In 1869, Cleveland moved to Chicago, where he had a major impact on the developing park system and other public spaces. He formed a professional association with landscape architect William Merchant Richardson French, brother of Daniel Chester French and, for thirty-five years, director of the Art Institute of Chicago. Cleveland accepted commissions elsewhere in Illinois, and in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska as well. He corresponded extensively with his professional peers (Olmsted among them) and wrote about landscape design. His influential Landscape Architecture as Applied to the Wants of the West was published in 1873.

The public spaces of Minneapolis provided the final palette for Cleveland's talents. Having already worked on a number of commissions in that city, he moved there in 1886, and took on the design of the Minneapolis park system. He died in Hinsdale, Illinois, in 1900, and was buried in Minneapolis.

As landscape historian Daniel Nadenicek has suggested, Cleveland's personal brand of landscape design was informed by Emerson's organic approach to art and aesthetics. In his Sleepy Hollow dedication address, Emerson extolled the natural landscape as the proper focus of the landscape architect: "Modern taste has shown that there is no ornament, no architecture alone, so sumptuous as well disposed woods and waters, where art has been employed only to remove superfluities, and bring out the natural advantages." In his A Few Words on the Arrangement of Rural Cemeteries (1881), Cleveland echoed Emerson's emphasis on the natural landscape. He wrote critically of the tendency to lay out cemeteries "without the least regard to topographical features, or the opportunities for tasteful effects which the natural position may afford."

Along with maps and plans, printed tracts, and historical photographs, the landscape itself provides a form of documentation. One need only walk through the 1855 section of Sleepy Hollow to understand intuitively that its design was intended to foster tranquility and private contemplation. If there is any doubt that Concord's gem of a cemetery originated largely in Cleveland's transcendental sense of nature as a tonic for the soul and a catalyst for human sensibilities, a visit to another nearby cemetery of his design will clarify the degree to which Sleepy Hollow reflects the man's personal vision.

In 1872, the Town of Lancaster contracted native son Cleveland to draw up a plan for Eastwood Cemetery, on Old Common Road. Dedicated in 1876, the older parts of Eastwood boast curving paths and lots set along a drive up and down a thickly wooded hill. The design features of Eastwood project, as intended, a charming wildness. The spirit of the place is uncannily like that of Sleepy Hollow. The visitor familiar with Sleepy Hollow will experience a powerful sense of déjà vu in this younger sister of Concord's best-known cemetery.


Images: Top: the Alcott family grave marker.
Center: the area beneath Author's Ridge
Bottom: Ralph Waldo Emerson's grave marker. All antique postcards courtesy of the HREF="http://www.concordnet.org/library/scollect/scoll.html" target="_blank">Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library.
Background: We have lost the contact info for this background. If you can help us give the artist proper credit, please contact us.


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