Tuesday, March 20, 2012
One of my favorite areas to explore in the Albany Rural Cemetery is the ravine between the South and Middle Ridges. While there are very few monuments here, it is a fascinating and scenic place...as well as an important part of the Cemetery's early history.
The picture above shows Consecration Lake in the mid-1800s and is a pleasant reminder that rural cemeteries were often designed for use as parks as well as burial places.
On the left, a horse-drawn carriage appears to be following the popular "Tour" laid out in several early guidebooks (notice the sign on the tree by the rustic bridge). On the right, a man pauses on the bridge and ladies sit beneath a tree in the background. The path beyond the bridge curves up towards the MacIntosh vault as seen in the recent photo below.
Consecration Lake was formed by damning part of Moordanaers Kill where the ravine widens into a sort of natural amphitheater. It was here, in a spot described by an old Albany newspaper as "beautiful and secluded," that the Cemetery was consecrated on October 7, 1844...hence the lake's name.
Paths on both sides of Moordanaers Kill led into the ravine from the Cemetery's main entrance road and several small bridges crossed the stream. These bridges are, for the most part, gone. One rusted and uncrossable bridge can still be found near the opening of the ravine.
Like most of the Cemetery's lakes (except for Cypress Waters on the South Ridge), Consecration Lake was drained in the mid-20th century.
The photo above shows the present waterfall were the damn was removed. The photo above shows the present waterfall were the damn was removed. The antique image below shows the same view around 1906.
Prior to the establishment of the Cemetery, this was the location of a mill (with a large waterwheel powered bythe stream) and a small schoolhouse.
Due to the terrain, there are very few graves and monuments around the old lake site, though there are a number of interesting monuments in a small glade just west of the bridge and, from there, a grassy path runs along the shoulder of the Middle Ridge. There are, however, two noteworthy mausoleums here. The first is the MacIntosh vault mentioned above. The other is the Yates crypt.
The Yates family crypt is one of the Cemetery's most secluded graves. Set deep into the hillside near the spot where the consecration ceremonies were held and almost invisible from the road above, it is almost eerie in its isolation now. However, when it was first built, this vault overlooked Consecration Lake and one of the Cemetery's prettiest strolling paths. In fact, it was described in one guidebook as one of the one of the "most admirably located" in the entire Cemetery.