Despite a soggy February the PRO team at Oakland Cemetery has hit the ground running in 2020. Late last year we embarked on a four-year endeavor to restore 7.5 acres on the east side of the cemetery, an area referred to as the East Hill. In the past four years, we have completed about four acres, but with the help of stonemasons contracted to make necessary repairs to retaining walls and pathways, we will double that rate. All sensitive headstone treatment will be conducted by in-house staff.
Since November, we have completed headstone preservation on ten blocks, or about half an acre. Our work has been challenging and diverse. It has included large monuments requiring several sets of scaffolding to reconstruct, concrete grave covers, and fragile sets of cradling. All of these processes can really transform the appearance of a family plot.
Doing this sort of work during the winter months can be tricky, and we have to make several adjustments to our usual protocol. For example, the epoxy and mortars that we use to repair and patch historic stone cannot properly cure in temperatures below 40 degrees. For that reason, over the past few months, we’ve conducted nearly all repairs indoors in our historic coalhouse-turned-workshop. This century-old brick building is kept between 50 and 60 degrees in the winter, allowing us to keep preservation efforts going year-round. After mortars have set up for about a week we can carefully move repaired headstones back to their proper locations on the grounds.
Along with the temperature, moisture has also been our enemy this year! Rain makes the soil too soggy to compact and turns holes dug for concrete into birdbaths. We’ve been able to combat some of the effects of rain by utilizing huge, 20’x20′ tarps to cover large areas when rain is expected overnight. When we get to the site the next day, we erect tents to work beneath. Although this is not a perfect system, it has helped us not fall too far behind schedule.
We look forward to a dryer and warmer spring!