A message from the Chairman:
Thank you for your interest in Swan Point and its 175 years of serving the greater Providence community!
Chartered in 1847 as one of the first garden cemeteries in the country, today Swan Point has grown to 200-acres of magnificent landscape, art and architecture, monuments and history. Along the way, the cemetery has reached many milestones, including the opening of the first crematory in Rhode Island in 1947 and being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We have a Brief History of Swan Point if you are interested in learning more.
While a sacred burial ground, Swan Point is also a serene and beautiful community resource to be quietly enjoyed. I encourage you to walk, bike or drive the cemetery’s park-like grounds. In addition to it being relaxing, visiting often evokes memories of the past while you become more knowledgeable about some of the most prominent people in Rhode Island’s history.
To celebrate the cemetery’s 175th anniversary, we will be holding a series of events leading up to the cemetery’s official anniversary in May 2022, when a commemorative 175th boulder will be unveiled at the main entrance. We hope that you can participate in some of these activities so please continue to check our Calendar of 175th Events.
Thomas P.I. Goddard
Chairman of the Board
Swan Point Cemetery
175 YEARS OF MILESTONES
Swan Point is chartered as a rural or garden cemetery after its founding by Thomas C. Hartshorn who secured six other gentlemen to invest in the endeavor.
Swan Point Cemetery is reorganized under a new charter allowing all proprietors of lots to become members of the Corporation.
The Perpetual Care and Bequest Fund was established based on retaining a unit price per square foot for all lands sold to ensure the financial future of the cemetery. Also, Timothy McCarthy was hired as Superintendent, quickly creating a place of horticultural distinction.
Swan Point adopted cemetery design styles that reduced landscape maintenance, including the favoring of a single dominant marker for family lots with accompanying ground level markers and a ban on fences and curbing.
In concert with the city’s construction of Blackstone Boulevard, boulders were removed from the cemetery grounds to create a stone wall along the boulevard which would become the main Boulder Entrance that welcomes visitors today.
A new Office Building designed by Alfred Stone was erected near the new cemetery entrance. The one-story Gothic Revival structure built with granite and limestone still stands today.
A structures plan was instituted requiring the deposit of a sum of money to provide for the repair, cleaning and eventual replacement of every structure thereafter erected.
The Old Swan Point Road was abandoned as a public highway and reverted to its abutting owners, Swan Point Cemetery and Butler Hospital. The hospital transferred its right to the cemetery, allowing the cemetery to put gates up and close the grounds at night.
A small crematory building, the first of its kind in the state, was erected as a North Wing of the Office Building. That same year, a Columbarium was also built to provide space for cremated remains.
The Garden Mausoleum, the first above ground garden crypts mausoleum in New England, was built on the cemetery grounds. The mausoleum provided more than 500 crypts for above ground burial. The adjacent Ivy Columbarium offered 1,000 niches for cremated remains.
A plan for the annual maintenance of the cemetery’s trees was established. The cemetery’s grounds were divided into five sections, with the intent that every five years efforts would concentrate on one section, removing trees that were diseased, trimming the healthy ones and planting an additional two trees for every one lost.
The Redwood Mausoleum Complex, featuring interior and exterior crypts, a niche room, a family room and a large chapel which seats approximately 100 people, was completed. The exterior design of the complex was compatible with that of the main Office Building, a variation of English Country Gothic and the Arts and Crafts movement.
The cemetery opened a new 2 ½-acre burial area in the northwest section of the cemetery called Birch Grove. The new area offers an array of burial sites ranging from single graves to multiple grave monument lots. Also designed into the new area is a multiple space cremation garden.
A “green” or natural burial section named The Ellipse was opened in the historic central core of the cemetery where all components going into the earth are biodegradable. Surrounded by mature trees and shrubs, the area is kept free of individual monuments to preserve its natural setting. That same year, Swan Point Cemetery was also certified by the Green Burial Council.
The cemetery’s reopening of its restored pedestrian entrance gates and footpaths marked the start of a year-long celebration of its 175 years of service to the community. After being closed for decades, the reopening of the gates that flank the main entrance and exit roadways was necessary to safely welcome the increased amount of foot traffic.