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Quick and Dirty

Back From the Grave

City Dedicates Funds To Help Clean Up Mount Auburn Cemetery

Frank Klein
GRAVE DISSERVICE: At Mount Auburn Cemetery Even the resting places of Historic African-American figures, such as boxing champion Joseph Gans (pictured), are surrounded by overgrowth and debris.

By Jason Torres | Posted 6/27/2007

Baltimore's historic Mount Auburn Cemetery is as well known for its distinctive past these days as it is for its inglorious present condition ("The Plot Sickens," Mobtown Beat, May 30). The cemetery in Westport, which was the first in the city to allow African-American citizens to be respectfully laid to rest, has been neglected, overgrown, and dilapidated for many years, but now the city is finally stepping in to help rejuvenate the "The City of the Dead for Colored People," as the cemetery used to be called.

The cemetery's owner, West Baltimore's Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church, has not had the resources to keep up with the maintenance on the sprawling 33 acres, and it is looking forward to the physical and financial effort the city hopes to put into Mount Auburn.

"We're happy that the city is putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak," says the Rev. Dellyne Hinton, senior pastor at Sharp Street Church. "It isn't just lip service. A plan has been put in place, and things are going to start happening in a big way, and we're thrilled."

The city's Department of Transportation confirmed that a $1 million, four-month-long refurbishment and beautification project is in the works for the site. It is tentatively scheduled to begin in August 2008.

The consultant for the project is Greenhorne and O'Mara, a Laurel-based engineering consulting firm with offices in seven states.

The bidding process for the project has not yet taken place, and the project is still in its preliminary stages, so a specific contractor has not yet been identified. But according to the Department of Transportation, the money will come from local funds, specifically Motor Vehicle Revenue funds. Those revenues, which are distributed to the city by the state of Maryland, must be used for the construction and maintenance of streets and highways throughout the city.

The restoration project will include removal of the cemetery's existing fence, vegetation, entrance wall, and gate. New retaining walls, sidewalks, bus pads, a chain-link fence, stone veneer gate pillars at the entrance, and an ornamental arched sign at the corner of Annapolis Road and Waterview Avenue will be installed.

"It's exciting to be a part of a project like this, considering the history of the area," says Greg Bauer, consultant for the Department Of Transportation. "I'm new here, so it's very exciting for one of my first projects to be something that's so important to so many people. It's really going to look great."

The city anticipates that it will advertise for bidders for the project during the fourth quarter of this fiscal year.

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