Grey Towers Heritage Association Receives Grant to Assist With Cemetery Repairs
The Grey Towers Heritage Association has received a grant of $20,000 from ESSA Bank and Trust Fund to help repair and restore historic family plot fencing and grave markers in Laurel Hill Cemetery, located on the grounds of Grey Towers National Historic Site, the ancestral home of conservationist Gifford Pinchot.
“We’re grateful to ESSA Bank and Trust Fund for helping the GTHA help repair and restore the historic family plots particularly, the grave markers of some of Milford’s oldest families.” said Barbara J. Buchanan, President of the Grey Towers Heritage Association
The grant provides about half of the funding needed to for this phase in the preservation of Laurel Hill, Milford’s original graveyard. The US Forest Service, which operates and maintains Grey Towers, conducted some mitigation work several years ago, including removal of trees that were damaging the grave stones. The GTHA support will allow for the restoration of the original iron railings around the larger family plots and the stabilization of grave markers. Ultimately, the GTHA hopes to raise enough funds to assist the Forest Service to restore all the iron railings and the broken and fallen grave markers.
A new technological process will be used in the project to stabilize the grave markers, which is the most crucial part of the project. Aluminum frames will be used to hold and create a support structure for the broken marble slabs, which will be slipped into the structure to give them the proper support without causing irreversible damage. The PA State Historic Preservation Office has approved this design and process prepared by Kenneth Sandri, Heritage Program Manager at Grey Towers and all procedures utilized will be in accordance with the professional standards of the Association for Graveyard Studies and the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology.
Laurel Hill Cemetery, established in 1821, contains 112 monuments ranging from undressed fieldstone markers to more elaborate obelisks and engraved markers. The majority of burials occurred from 1821-1899. Old burial practices, such as single unmarked graves and burying one coffin on top of another, have made the positive identification of all those buried in the cemetery impossible. However, Laurel Hill is the burial site for many of Milford’s early residents, including several generations of prominent families such as the Pinchots, Quicks, Bowhanans and Goodings.
The names, dates and inscriptions on the headstones tell a story of what life was like in this small riverside community during the 19th century, giving clues to social status, religious beliefs, and typical causes of death. Milford Cemetery, located just outside of the borough on Route 209, was dedicated in 1868 and displaced Laurel Hill as the new town cemetery,
The Grey Towers Heritage Association is continuing to raise funds to support the restoration. For more information or to help support the Grey Towers Heritage Association’s efforts to repair the Laurel Hill Cemetery please visit www.greytowers.org/cemetery