Saturday, September 18, 2010

Journey to Valhalla

Yesterday (pre-tornadic activity) was another spectacularly beautiful day in New England. I needed a little artistic inspiration and the thought of walking around an indoor museum was just not all that interesting. I wanted to be outside, enjoying the dappled sunshine and smell of freshly mowed grass and fallen leaves. I also didn't want to have too drive far to get there, so the obvious choice was a visit to Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY.

I don't have anything against I-84 and the other big highways and byways of the northeast, but I do love the less manic local roads, too. I wasn't in a big hurry so I took a bit of an old-timey route taking Route 6 west (generally) until it met up with my old friend, the Taconic Parkway.

Route 6 tends to meander, but it winds through villages and hamlets (literally, Carmel Hamlet) along the way and there are some beautiful little architectural gems, many in need of some TLC. Mansard roof-lines or rickety widow's walks peek out of the trees and stately Colonial era homes overlook the placid waters of the region's reservoirs. Not surprisingly, signs of the times are everywhere, with shuttered businesses and for sale or for rent signs on most blocks. 

By the time I hit the Taconic, I was ready for the open road. I am a big fan of the area's parkways--The Saw Mill, the Taconic, The Sprain Brook...all of them. I'm sure I'd feel very differently if I had to commute via these busy roads every day, but for the occasional traveler, they're attractive--gentle curves and tree lined vistas--and enjoyable to drive.

Arriving at Kensico the first thing visitors see is the charming faux-Tudor manor house that is the office. They have maps that show you were the famous are interred, but the map also has a lot of excellent historical information that's good background on the who, what, and why of some of the residents. Many of those memorialized here (Bonwits and Bendels for example) are early New York captains of industry or the like, so their monuments are impressive and architecturally interesting. There are also a large number of actors, songwriters, and other creative sorts at Kensico, making it a veritable (and very creative) sculpture garden. Some of the larger family plots are decorated with ornamental trees and shrubbery (not unlike Mount Auburn or Forest Hills in the Boston area) that will only be more beautiful as the seasons change. The aroma of boxwood is prevalent and contributes to the feast for the senses that is Kensico.

My favorite spot is the Bell is one of the most interesting sculptural grave markers I've ever seen. Last year, after having newly discovered the Bells I did a little digging and wrote this post about them and Kensico-- read it here, The Bells of Valhalla.

Without further delay, then, some of the wonderful and unexpected markers and monuments I was inspired by on my outing. Full disclosure I scaled the saturation on the photos WAY back so they'd look very nearly black and white.

The Bell monument

The BPOE plot, Elk's Rest
Intricate Celtic cross
Doorway to the Sulka mausoleum

Wall in front of the Kroger mausoleum
The Landon mausoleum
The Rohde monument
Detail of the Rohde monument
The pool within the Storrs plot
I'll close with the inscription from the beautiful sculptural marker at the Storrs' plot, "Life is a book, a different page is turned each day. The happiness of the next, none dare say."


sid fernando said...

stroll back in time, as usual-- and enjoyable!

The Paper Tyger said...

I do enjoy my little exercises in nostalgia :) Thanks for being such a loyal reader!