New England cemeteries always bring with them an air of mystery that rides on the coattails of centuries of colonial history. Many of these exist within the great city of Boston or just outside of it, and they're known for the stories they tell of those who have found their final resting places within their stone or wrought-iron walls. There's one cemetery, though, that's home to quite a bit more than just a burial ground.

Forest Hills is located in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood and it draws visitors in for a variety of reasons. The history, for starters - but its unique arboretum and interactive grave markers are another. For those who choose to explore even deeper into this Victorian-era cemetery, there's even a miniature village to be found. This is what awaits visitors who find themselves at Forest Hills Cemetery.

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A 19th-Century Cemetery-Turned-Park

When Forest Hills was first deemed a cemetery, it's unlikely that its intentions were to ever become an arboretum. It's also unlikely that anyone would expect to see grave markers dedicated to the likes of famed poets E.E. Cummings or Anne Sexton, nor was it foreseen that the cemetery would also make the Top 1000 list of the Greatest Places in all of Massachusetts. With that being said, Forest Hills is all of these things and so much more, especially for those who aren't creeped out by the fact that it's also a massive burial ground (one that is still active, no less).

Upon first entering the cemetery, visitors are greeted by a slightly unusual entrance in the shape of a castle awning. This grand feature is the first sign that this cemetery is unlike any other in Boston or beyond, and it welcomes guests in like they're old friends. The cemetery is home to 275 acres of land, making this expansive sprawl quite the day's walk. It's also home to a tranquil lake and peaceful woodlands, which is another aspect of the land that draws people in. For those who visit the cemetery for its history, it does not disappoint. Many of the stones date back to the cemetery's construction back in 1848 and features grand Victorian works of art in the form of sculptures. Some of the memorials are even interactive, featuring giant xylophones that can be played or making use of the surrounding nature, which is incorporated into its design.

The Miniature Village

Created by artist Christopher Frost, one of the cemetery's well-known attractions is its miniature village. The village itself is an artful tribute to those who are buried in the cemetery and their 'homes' are meant to be representative of their lives.

For example, those wandering through the village might come across a concrete home dedicated to Ralph Martin, who was a wagon-driver and lost his life during the tragedy that was Boston's Great Molasses Flood. Each tiny home is unique and has been carefully created in memory of many who can be found in Forest Hills.

Horticulture

Forest Hills is in part an arboretum, with unique plants such as Japanese maples, weeping hemlocks, and tulip trees scattered throughout its grounds. The grounds themselves are kept up as there are many gardens that take up room on its spacious 200+ acres, especially surrounding the lake in the center of it all.

Visitors will find benches throughout the cemetery from which to take in the surrounding scenery and simply sit in contemplation - as strange as that may seem in a place such as this. It's truly beautiful, in a way that combines history with artistic talent and the natural beauty of Mother Nature.

This cemetery is known for its sheer size which is nothing to shake a stick at. It encompasses more ground than most people can cover in several days, and a map is absolutely necessary when it comes to the cemetery's most notable features. While maps are available to be downloaded, it's much more prudent to pick one up at the main office. This map is far more detailed and includes helpful directions to the miniature village, which is a beloved stop on any tour of Forest Hills.

  • The Miniature Village is located between Primrose and Rock Maple Avenues, on White Oak Avenue.

Additionally, visitors will have a much easier time if they opt to drive into the cemetery rather than walk the entire way. On the map from the main office, visitors will also notice routes that are referred to as 'paths' - these are walking paths and are not meant for driving. Parking can be found at the main office, which provides access to paths in every main area of Forest Hills.

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