by Jennifer Adele
For the happily haunted and harvest-centered month of October, I thought I would focus my article for the Writing in Nature feature on a local St. Louis cemetery that exceeds in lush green space, historic provisions, and an essence of autumn… Mount Hope Cemetery and Mausoleum.
Whether it is actually located in an area of St. Louis County known as Bella Villa or Lemay is somewhat debated and depends on whom you ask, but it is no matter because Mount Hope Cemetery is hard to miss. It is located right on Lemay Ferry Road with the main entrance near the cross street of Telegraph Road.
Acres upon acres of rolling green hills beckon you from the burgeoning street, and decadent tree lines make up the bulk of the rear grounds with grave sites in nice neat rows everywhere in between. Headstones, foot stones, wolf stones, and all sorts of private family mausoleums are a feast for the eyes, too, and provide a tone of immediate history. And to add to the elegant harmony of a trip through this resting place, the trails are well maintained and the stones are certainly kept up.
From spiraling trees to dipping valleys and even hidden coves, the cemetery grounds of Mount Hope have it all, not to mention the floral arrangement remembrances placed at the graves of loved ones from around the area. If time could stand still, it would do so here. If ancestors could speak, they would converse and converge here. Time may fly in the everyday world, amid the hustle and bustle of society, but if as an artist you are looking to evoke the concepts of eternity and stillness, come to Mount Hope. Also, the undulating landscape and beckoning wildlife are enough to stir the primordial in any writer, painter, or poet… nature being the everlasting muse. It also doesn’t hurt that two other old cemeteries bump up against the back boundary – Oakdale and Mount Olive. Plus, Park Lawn and St. Trinity cemeteries are just across Lemay Ferry Road from this site for another adventure to be had during the time of year when the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is said to be at its thinnest.
In addition to the greenery and the merging of nature with the memorial artistry of man, Mount Hope offers cemetery grounds to wander and a public mausoleum, open from 9am to 4pm on most days. But, don’t let other mausoleums lull you into a sense of indifference, for Mount Hope’s structure is absolutely beyond compare. Listed on the registry of historic landmarks and boasting a rich history stretching back almost 200 years, this mausoleum puts all others to shame. From the moment you enter, you are greeted by the lilting refrains of classical music and the sweet stillness of an air that refuses to adapt. No matter how much we tend to change, nothing and no one changes here… not in spirit anyway. Carpeted floors, climate controlled temperatures, plush seating, and grand marble walls and pillars speak of a truth beyond words and an art that endures where all others have failed or fallen short. Sense those who came before resting in the crypts. Enjoy a sense of timelessness as you peer out glass doors at a busy street filled with people pondering issues of less depth. Feel what is truly important as days of your own life tick by. What will you leave to the world and to your people when you are gone?… This is the silent question of the ancestors hidden within the walls.
The mausoleum is actually now separated into two distinct sections – the older, historic building and the newer addition, which is also rather impressive to see for many of the same reasons. A touch that is my personal favorite, and conveniently found in the new wing, is a regal grandfather clock inscribed with the Latin words “tempus fugit”… Time flies.
Mount Hope Cemetery and Mausoleum is definitely one of my all-time favorite spots to summon the muse as a local author and horror writer. I go there to find my own sense of eternity and the macabre, of times long gone by and dreams left undreamt… unless I dare to dream them. Perhaps it’s the grand architecture that is so signature of the gravestones and the mausoleum that makes me suddenly want to write, or the rolling hills of a land that houses those who walked the paths long before I was born. Whatever the case, why not get out there and see what hauntedly good features Mount Hope might have in store for you this Halloween season?