, Salem, MA

March 4, 2014

City wants cemetery on national register

By Neil H. Dempsey
Staff Writer

---- — SALEM — Officials are looking to get Greenlawn Cemetery added to the National Register of Historic Places and are trying to find the money to spruce up its Dickson Memorial Chapel.

Lynn Duncan, director of the city’s planning department, said yesterday that a consultant was putting together the paperwork to nominate the cemetery for the register. The federal preservation committee it will be forwarded to could issue approval as early as May.

“There’s no question in my mind that the nomination will go through and Greenlawn Cemetery will be on the national register,” she said.

Getting the cemetery on the register will open up funding opportunities for the renovation of the site’s chapel, which is just inside the Orne Street entrance and was erected by Walter Scott Dickson in memory of his wife in 1894.

The chapel — the city’s only example of high Victorian Gothic architecture — needs extensive restoration work, said Pat Donahue, a Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery member.

“There’s a lot of problems inside that need to be addressed, whether it’s a broken window or crumbling sandstone columns or doors that won’t close,” she said.

Christine Lutts, co-chair of the group, said the chapel was “quite spectacular in many ways.” She disagrees with people who say it is beyond repair.

“Some people think the chapel isn’t repairable ... it’s extremely repairable,” Lutts said. “It does need attention in quite a few areas right away.”

Proposed work includes restoration of the chapel’s stained-glass windows and 10-foot doors, as well as interior renovations to its terra cotta and soapstone walls, and refinishing for its floor.

Duncan said the city won’t know how much the work will cost until an architect finishes an analysis of the site.

The city is eyeing a variety of possible funding sources, including a $50,000 grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund, which is overseen by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Although the city originally planned to apply for the grant this year, it turns out the site has to already be on the national register to be eligible, Duncan said.

“They want to spend their money on national registered properties,” Duncan said.

The city will apply for the grant next year.

The cemetery project is also among 12 applicants vying for a share of the estimated $400,000 that could be doled out this year as part of the city’s new Community Preservation Act. Applications for that funding are due by early April, and a committee is expected to recommend which projects should be funded by May. Each project must get final approval from the City Council.

Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at