2018 News Archives




tree tag samples

Year One of our tree tagging initiative has been a super success.  This project is the brainchild of FOMH volunteer and tree lover Tom Jones.  Seventy-one trees have already been tagged, and phase 2 begins in January, 2019.

Each tag has the symbol of Mount Hope Cemetery – the Gazebo– on the lower left.  On the lower right is a QR code that directly connects information about the tree to a smartphone. Visitors to the cemetery can scan to read the story of the tree and see photos of it in all seasons.

In the image below, Tom’s daughter Jess tags a ginkgo tree in Section 7. 

Tree tagging

From our FOMH plant website (https://www.plantsmap.com/organizations/fomh) we learn the exact location of this tree along with a description—”The fan-shaped leaves of this ancient species of tree are a dead giveaway to its identity.  Those bumpy little things all over the branches are called spurs.  New growth comes from these spurs.” 

On December 28th Tom added “Boy, this tree had a lot of fruit on the ground underneath it today.  You know that stinky, putrid kind of smelly, squishy, fruit pulpy stuff over the nut?”

Our thanks to Tom for this tremendous accomplishment.  Because of Tom’s commitment and enthusiasm, we are all becoming tree aficionados!

The following  is taken from the Democrat and Chronicle December 25, 1901 (117 years ago!):

dc headerxmas1000 copy

The First Christmas Tree Introduced to Rochester by George Ellwanger

Austrian Pine image

What would the children of to-day do without their Christmas tree? That  is a question few of the happy favored youngsters of the 20th century could answer satisfactorily, and it suggests a condition they could not face with equanimity. The holiday season, indeed, would lose half its significance to them, if not to their elders, with no tree.

Yet, like many other things of to-day, the Christmas tree was an institution practically unknown to the children of Rochester sixty years ago. Such a creation as the modern child enjoys, with its glittering ornaments,  its myriad tiny colored tapers, or, even more up to date,  its twinkling electric lights,  to say nothing of its wealth of gifts,  would have seemed nothing short of a gift from some good fairy’s wand. It would have been a thing to approach reverently, to gaze upon in wondering amazement and to treasure in the heart as a sacred memory.

George Ellwanger portrait

It was within the recollection of one of Rochester’s oldest inhabitants when the first Christmas tree known in this city was exhibited.  It was the venerable and honored George Ellwanger,  of Mt Hope Avenue,  who introduced it here.

Ellwanger tree ad

“The Christmas tree was a German institution,”  said Mr. Ellwanger in relating the story to a Democrat and Chronicle reporter. “We always had it in every Christian family in the Fatherland. It was the Christmas of 1841 or 1842, I don’t just recollect which, that we had a tree in the old German Lutheran church on Grove Street. We invited everyone who had never seen a Christmas tree, and explained its meaning to them. It was a big green tree, all lighted up with candles, and the people were amazed and very much pleased at its appearance. We had an address on the occasion, telling of the custom, especially directed to the children. After the first tree, the custom became a yearly one, and from it has developed to the elaborate and beautiful tree with which children of the present generation are so familiar.”


Biology studies1

Isn’t it amazing the life that  is experienced at Mount Hope?  College students, beetles, research – Wow! The Fall 2018 edition of Rochester Review features this news from the University of Rochester:
Gabrielle Henry ’19 daubs the correction fluid Wite-Out on a beetle in Mt. Hope Cemetery this fall as part of an advanced ecology and evolution laboratory course led by Robert Minckley, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology.

biology studies2

The class marks the beetles, a species of blister beetles, so that they can identify them in follow-up trips and monitor if the population levels change. Minckley says the beetles work well for a class project because they’re abundant in the cemetery each fall and active regardless of the temperature. “They are nearly perfect as a teaching organism and are largely unstudied,” says Minckley. “As far as I know, there has never been a scientific paper written on this species. So, the students are discovering something entirely new no matter what they decide to study.”

Enjoy these photos by J. Adam Fenster (used with permission)

Kudos to Professor Minckley and his students.


bluebird twig

In 2006 Sheryl Gracewski noticed that while there were bluebirds in Mt. Hope Cemetery, their nest boxes were in bad shape. Sheryl and her husband, Tom Nash, asked the Friends of Mt. Hope if they could refurbish the trail. FOMH gave them money for new boxes and poles. There are 12 new boxes and one old one that was in fairly good condition. Sheryl and Tom monitor the boxes on their own, although some friends will check if they are away for more than a week at a time.  In addition, they write an annual report on the bluebird population in Mount Hope.

For 2018, Sheryl submitted the following report:

“The number of bluebird broods nesting in our 13 boxes decreased this year after a near steady increase since the box revitalization. Part of the reason for this decrease is the absence of second broods. This year we initially had 6 bluebird nests, each of which yielded 3-4 fledglings. There were a few additional bluebird nests built later in the season, but we didn’t see any eggs in them. In addition, there was only one successful wren brood and no chickadee broods in our boxes. Jack Warren, a professor of biology at the University of Rochester, collected most of the nests just after fledging to be used in studies of the evolutionary changes in blowflies and their parasites.

bluebird house

We are delighted that a flying squirrel is continuing to use one of our boxes for nesting. We try not to disturb her, so we do not check that box when we think she is there. We did spray a wasp nest in the box in late June. In late October there were new leaves in the box, so perhaps she is building a new nest.

We had a great summer observing not only the bluebirds but also all the birds and wildlife in Mt. Hope Cemetery.”
Many thanks to Sheryl Gracewski and Tom Nash for their dedication to our Bluebird Project!



scout cadets vets day flagging

Frigid weather did not deter Cadette Girl Scouts from Brighton from paying tribute to our veterans at Mt. Hope.  They put flags on all the veterans in the World War I plot, and then proceeded to flag veterans in the World War II and Spanish American War plots as well.  Participating were 13 girls from troops 60124 and 60064.

scouts at hochstein grave

After that they went to the grave of David Hochstein’s parents to put a flag by their gravestone.  Many of the girls were taking lessons at the Hochstein Music School, and they were touched to hear the story of David Hochstein’s life as a music prodigy and his tragic death on the battlefield in World War I.

Girls, the Friends of Mount Hope thank you.  What a patriotic service project!  We are proud of your good work.

Photos by Tina Yee

Dear Friends,

I want to thank all of you who supported our 2018 tour program.  We gave 30 Theme Tours, 28 Sunday tours, 14 Twilight Tours and 4 Winter tours.  In addition, the Torch Light tours, our annual fundraiser, were sold out both nights.

These numbers do not include the many tours for school children, college students, and civic groups that are held on weekdays.

Mt Hope Tour 3 small

Membership allows you to attend all our tours, with the exception of the Torch Light tours and the Geography Tour, free of charge.  This is an incredible bargain!

Your participation is critical to our mission.  We love your enthusiasm; we love your devotion to this magnificent city (and national) treasure.

And special thanks to the many volunteers who make such a successful season possible! New volunteers are always welcome—talk to us on “Contact Us” (see menu at the top of this page).

We look forward to the 2019 season—new tours, creative programs, new initiatives, sunny days….and greeting you all at the gatehouse!  See you soon.

Patricia Corcoran
Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery



Potsdam Volunteers

Mount Hope Cemetery appreciates the hard work and enthusiasm of the Potsdam alumni group who volunteered on Saturday, Oct. 27 in the cold and rain.  Their high spirits overcame these obstacles, however, and a large area of Section B was raked.  This is the second year that this group has spent their “Day of Service” at Mount Hope.

We invite other school and college groups, alumni friends, scouts, and church youth to select Mount Hope for service projects. Just select “Contact Us,” and we will help you set up a date and connect with the cemetery staff in charge. 

When you view the smiling faces on these volunteers, you can appreciate their sense of accomplishment in a job well done, as well as a morning of fun and camaraderie with old friends.


fall foliage tour copy

If you like trees, you’re going to love the new web site our volunteer Tom Jones has created.

The major specimen trees of Mount Hope Cemetery have been identified and located on this web site. Click on this Mount Hope Trees link and explore!

Photo Credit: Donald S. Hall



LHMorgan mausoleum copy edited 1
Louis Henry Morgan Mausoleum
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Tour Guides and Authors

Text by Patricia Corcoran,   Photos by Tom Jones

On September 29th the Friends of Mount Hope hosted the Anthropology Department of the University of Rochester in a “Lewis Henry Morgan and the Pundit Club” tour written by students of Dr. Robert Foster. This tour is part of the 200th Anniversary of Lewis Henry Morgan’s birth being celebrated with a wide series of activities sponsored by the Anthropology Department.

The tour scripts were written by University of Rochester undergraduate students Anna Remus, Naomi Ruetz, and Sam Schact and their supervisor, Dr. Robert Foster, professor of Anthropology and Visual and Cultural Studies. A professional and attractive Tour Guide booklet was produced by Jiangtao (Harry) Gu, doctoral candidate in the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, University of Rochester.

Friends of Mount Hope tour guides presented the stories of six of the pundit club members at each pundit’s gravesite using scripts written by the University of Rochester students. Presenters were Sally Millick, Joanne Mitchell, Dennis Carr, Tony Filer, and Chris Grooms.

A lovely fall day, a super enthusiastic audience, an exciting collaboration between the University of Rochester and The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery—all contributed to a most successful and enjoyable experience. In the following days, Dr. Foster sent an enthusiastic thank-you to the Friends: “On behalf of my students, I would like to thank you for launching what I hope will be the first of many Morgan and the Pundit Club Tours.  It was an excellent event on a beautiful day, and I am sure that the students appreciated the recognition that you so generously gave them. Thanks for the work you do promoting Rochester history.”

For further information about the activities of the Lewis Henry Morgan project, please visit the project website.



On Saturday, September 15, 2018, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 26 members of the Western New York Photo Walkers Club aimed their cameras at striking sites in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY. The tour/photo shoot was sponsored by Rowe Photo Store and Tamron Camera Lenses, which provided special lenses for the participants to try out on this tour.

The tour leader was Ron Richardson, who produced about half of the photographs (some of them with a drone camera) for the new book, Buried Treasures in Mount Hope Cemetery, published by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery. The book was released in April 2018. Ron, who taught photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, provided suggestions of photogenic places in the cemetery, one hour exploring the north section of the cemetery and one-and-a-half hours in the south section.


After the excursion in the cemetery, the group gathered at the Rowe Photo store, 1737 Mount Hope Avenue, for refreshments and more talk about camera lenses with the Tamron representative and Rowe Photo staff. A special gift at the reception was a copy of the new Buried Treasures book for each of the participants. The books were signed by Richard Reisem, author, and Ron Richardson, photographer. There were a few extra copies left over after the signing, so if you would like to acquire a signed copy of this impressive new book, you could buy one at Rowe Photo, 1737 Mt. Hope Avenue.


Douglass statue Gatehouse edited 1

On Friday, September 7, the long-awaited statue of Frederick Douglass was erected at Mount Hope in front of the Gatehouse at the North Entrance.  What an honor!

Douglass statue label

JULY 2018


Gates Library tour group

On Saturday, July 28th, the Friends welcomed patrons from the Gates Public Library for a tour of Mount Hope Cemetery. The theme of the tour, written and led by Dennis Carr, was “Rochester Architects and Architecture.” This tour was organized by Anna Souannavong, Acting Assistant Library Director, and Dennis Carr, who has inspired the Rochester Public Library Project.  This project offers a series of tours to library patrons, and is part of the community outreach of the Friends.


Repairing fallen or damaged gravestones is a major focus of the Restoration Committee of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery.  These efforts are expensive and totally funded through membership contributions to the Friends.  Such repairs are done by major local contractors who are experienced in historic restoration  as well as small independent contractors.

One seemingly small repair was indeed a most significant one.  It is the repair of the Dickson stones in Section B.  These gravesites are a stop on our “Roads Not Taken” tour which will take place on September 22nd and be led by Joanne Mitchell.

An entry from Richard Reisem’s Buried Treasures informs us of the tragic fates of the Dickson brothers:

David Dickson, Jr. (1835-1863) and Charles B. Dickson (1844-1864) were brothers whose tombstone inscriptions emphasize that they were “killed.”  David was a locomotive engineer whose train approached a switch that had been improperly set.  He braked and reversed the engine, jumped from the train, broke his neck, and was crushed by lumber flying from the freight cars.  He was 27 years old.  His epitaph reads: “A light is from our household gone, / A voice we loved is still, / A place is vacant at our hearth, /Which never can be filled.”  His younger brother, Charles B., was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864.  His tombstone notes that it is a cenotaph as his body was not recovered.  Only the second line of his epitaph is discernible, which reads:  “The form of our Charlie is sleeping.”

The Dickson stones were repaired by Richard Miller, an independent contractor and expert at the repair of complicated stones.  The result of his patience and fine efforts are evident below:     



New Volunteer Opportunity!

Sunday, July 29 at 10 AM

headstone cleaning

On Saturday, June 30th, members of the Restoration Committee met with several volunteers and the owner of Generations Memorials, William Yager. Bill gave a demonstration on how to clean headstones, and the volunteers were able to try out a product called “Wet and Forget.”  A plan for a long-term headstone cleaning program was formulated. Pat Corcoran, Dennis Carr & Valerie O’Hara were there from the committee along with veteran volunteers Anna Jannes and Kevin Brown. Don Hall came to take photographs.

Anna Jannes has volunteered to chair this project.  Current volunteers are:  Maureen Frances, Susan Ferrari Rowley, Susan Mack, Tony Filer, and Pat Burns. If anyone is interested in helping us, please contact the Friends’ volunteer coordinator, Deb Coffey. [email protected].

Valerie’s assistant, Kathy Tingley, researched the availability of the product, and Dennis McCarthy, one of the owners of Mayer Hardware, has offered to donate the product! Dan Agnew, another Mayer employee, will also be coming to the cemetery to film a video of us working on the headstones, and we’ll have an opportunity to explain the project on camera.

Come join us in this new initiative!



Our gratitude to the Youth Group of St. Louis Church in Pittsford, some enthusiastic parents, and especially to Father Juan, who helped organize a service day at Mount Hope.  Everyone worked hard, had fun, and culminated their work with a picnic at Sylvan Waters.

We welcome young people to join the mission of the Friends.  We sponsor tours year round and work projects.  Youth who need volunteer hours will find interesting projects at Mount Hope.  We encourage teachers and Scout leaders to bring young people for tours of this rich historic resource.

Consult our website, Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, and use the “Contact Us” button to make arrangements for such visits.

JUNE 2018


Gazebo June 2018

Gazebo Nearly Finished

The Moorish style gazebo at the north entrance to Mount Hope Cemetery was built in 1872 and has undergone several restorations, one back in 1980 and another in 2016–2017. This photo was taken on October 23, 2017 after the arabesque design had been painted on several of the roof panels. The remaining panels will be completed this summer.

Two Famous Sculptures Cleaned and Preserved
      by Richard Reisem
By the second week of October 2017, two outstanding marble sculptures in Mount Hope Cemetery (the Weary Pilgrim in the Aaron Erickson plot and Saint John in the George Ellwanger plot) that had been exposed to decades of tree droppings, acid rain, vehicle exhaust, soot, fungus, and polluted air were spotlessly cleaned. The cleaning was no ordinary washing with soap and water. These were marble sculptures carved of rare Italian Carrera marble, which, like all marble, is porous, and therefore subject to lichen growth that when it dies leaves black deposits on the white marble. Sap and other tree droppings become glued to the marble. Polluted air carries dirt and chemicals that are deposited on the stone.

Cleaning marble cemetery monuments becomes a challenging and toilsome task. Not only are the stones stained and dirty, they are old. The Ellwanger monument of Saint John the Evangelist was carved in Rome and completed in 1874; the Erickson monument of a Weary Pilgrim in the Crusades, also carved in Rome, was completed in 1882. Both of them are well over a century old.

They were carved by a world-renowned Italian sculptor, Nicola Cantalamessa- Papotti (1833–1910). He worked at the court of Naples, where, for King Ferdinand II, he created a number of major sculptural works. He was also a sculptor for Pope Pius IX. Cantalamessa-Papotti created sculptures for American clients as well. One was a memorial for U.S. President James A. Garfield. There are four of Papotti’s sculptures in Rochester: two in Mount Hope Cemetery, one in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, and one on permanent display in the Memorial Art Gallery.

The Weary Pilgrim before cleaning        
  after cleaning

Photos by Ron Richardson

The Weary Pilgrim sculpture, located near the top of  Section G, depicts a traveler resting on his journey to the Holy Land in the Crusades, which were sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period (1095– 1410) and were campaigns to recover the Holy Land from Islamic rule. The Crusaders received plenary indulgences from the church. So the Weary Pilgrim becomes a symbol for forgiveness of sins. A close look at the sculpture reveals the clam shell worn on the left shoulder of the pilgrim’s cloak. It was the icon of the Crusades.

St. John before cleaning
Photos by Donald S. Hall
after cleaning

The 7-foot-high marble sculpture of the seated Saint John the Evangelist in Section V is depicted with the traditional eagle at his left side. St. John was banished to the island  of Patmos in the Aegean Sea during a period of Christian persecution. It was on this island where St. John received revelations from God and wrote the book of Revelation. The inscription on the base of the statue reads, “I heard a voice from Heaven…” The entire Biblical verse reads: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.'”

With such provenances relating to these sculptures and their creator, the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery was especially careful in proceeding with restoration work. We found two conservators who follow the U.S. Department of the Interior conservation regulations assiduously, namely Ron Koenig of Building Arts and Conservation, Saline, Michigan and Peter Ellison of Ellison Conservation, Canandaigua, New York. Their work in the first weeks of October involved several applications of cleaning materials applied several days apart for maximum effectiveness.

Both the Weary Pilgrim and Saint John received this three-step process, while Saint John required a fourth treatment to remove the especially tough stains from vehicular emissions, because the sculpture is located very close to busy Mount Hope Avenue.

APRIL 2018 


Canandaigua National Bank has selected FOMH, through its Canandaigua National Community Foundation, for one of its 2018 philanthropic awards.  In accepting this award of  $500, Henry McCartney stated that  “As FOMH’s very new executive director, I am delighted to thank Canandaigua Bank for this support, which is very appreciated and will further our efforts to preserve and promote Mount Hope Cemetery as one of Rochester’s most important cultural resources.”

MARCH 2018


Buried Treasures-2018 Edition

The Friends of Mount Hope announce the publication of a new, expanded edition of author Richard O. Reisem’s fascinating and highly informative pictorial field guide, Buried Treasures in Mount Hope Cemetery.

The new 230-page field guide to historic Mount Hope helps cemetery visitors locate more than 650 burial sites of remarkable people — some well known, others more obscure – and provides a biographical sketch for each one. The text is complemented by some 210 color photographs of cemetery “residents,” important monuments, and the evocative landscape of America’s first municipal Victorian cemetery. Useful, easily read maps of each cemetery quadrant as well as a larger map of the whole cemetery will help visitors explore Mr. Hope.

For more information about the book and how to obtain a copy, visit our Gift Shop page.



MARILYN NOLTE recently resigned from her position as president of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery in order to accept  a position working directly with Mt. Hope Cemetery management. She will remain as a member of the board until her term expires in April, 2018.

Marilyn’s dedication to the Friends is well known. Under her leadership the Friends has expanded its focus in such areas as  programming, restoration and community involvement.

Marilyn stated she is looking forward to new challenges while at the same time being part of the close relationship that has existed for more than 35 years between the City-owned Mount Hope Cemetery and the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery.

mccartney henry

HENRY MC CARTNEY, former Landmark Society Executive Director and local civic activist, began his new duties as Executive Director of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery on January 1st.  In this newly created position, Henry joins the FOMH Board currently led by President Richard Reisem.

Henry McCartney brings to The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery 27 years of experience in directing historic preservation organizations.  In Rochester, from 1984 to 2005, he was executive director of the Landmark Society of Western New York, where he oversaw creation of additional National Register Historic Districts, such as the Susan B Anthony district; started a publication program; transformed the derelict 1840 Hoyt-Potter House into Landmark’s headquarters; and built the Landmark Society into one of the country’s most notable preservation organizations. 

In Buffalo, he planned the merger of two small preservation organizations into Preservation Buffalo Niagara and oversaw PBNs effort to host the 2011 National Preservation Conference, now viewed as a seminal event spurring Buffalo’s current revival.   Before coming to upstate New York, Henry led an initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support neighborhood organizations across the country.  In the 1970s, he helped organized and then served as the only staff person for a neighborhood preservation organization in Jacksonville, Florida.  In 2012, Henry retired and relocated back to Rochester. 

Henry assumes this new leadership role with enthusiasm.  “Even though I really enjoy my Rochester retirement, I could not pass up this opportunity to become an Executive Director again, albeit as a volunteer.  The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery does great work with a dedicated group of tour guides, researchers, writers, monument restorers and more.  I’m hoping that what I’ve learned over these many years about operating citizen organizations will enable me to reinforce the work of these volunteers and make the Friends even stronger.”   

Friends’ Vice President Patricia Corcoran welcomes Henry to the Board.  “The mission of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery is vital to this community, and we are thrilled to have Henry McCartney as our Executive Director.”

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