A conceptual preservation plan for historic Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia

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Oswald, Alison L.
Costello, Anthony J.
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Thesis (M.S.)
Department of Architecture
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*Graveyards are significant sites that are consciously and deliberately created. As both architecture and landscape architecture, graveyards are an intrinsic part of history that have helped define and establish architectural styles as well as address land use and associated issues.Graveyards provide some of the best and most lasting examples of art and sculpture through the ages. By examining the size, shape, ornamentation/articulation, style of carving and materials from which the stones are constructed, elements of social status and what individuals thought of the themselves are revealed. Valuable historic documentation is gleaned from graveyards in the form of genealogical information, social history, widespread diseases, wars/battles and demographics. The study of epitaphs discloses biographies of individuals and indicates what type of professions were dominant during a certain period. The religious symbolism of individual stones differentiates denominations and may lend evidence of a once-existent church or parish.*This term was traditionally used throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and therefore will be applied in the text where appropriate. The need to preserve graveyards is essential to humankind's understanding of the past,, people and the environment. As outdoor museums that are open to all, regardless of social or economic status, to visit and experience, graveyards are potentially one of the best educational tools for interpreting history, yet are seldom used. Graveyards must begin to be viewed as "interpretive sites" and not just as functional and emotional places for the dead. As a tangible aspect of history that contains sensitive records, the preservation of a graveyard must be carefully and innovatively handled. The stability that a cemetery presents in the ever-changing environment of a disposable society is threatened unless the site and its artifacts are properly maintained.Historic Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia, presents itself as a significant eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth-century graveyard/cemetery. It is the site of the 1781 Battle of Petersburg and the burial grounds for approximately 30,000 Confederate soldiers from the United States Civil War. The Old Blandford Church is the oldest church in the Petersburg area (ca. 1734-1737) and was the last of three brick churches built for Bristol Parish of Bristol, England, in colonial Virginia. The church also contains fifteen Tiffany stained-glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.Since the historic fabric at Blandford Cemetery needs to be preserved, restored, maintained and innovatively managed to ensure its future, this study has been undertaken with the sincere hope that others will find the enthusiasm, support and encouragement to seek out, preserve and interpret old graveyards and cemeteries.