Cedar Hill gets improvement grant

Published 9:05 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

The city of Suffolk recently received a grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for a master plan for Cedar Hill Cemetery.

The Nansemond River Garden Club helped to spearhead the application for the grant, which comes through the department’s Certified Local Government program. The garden club also is matching the funds awarded by the state.

The garden club is one of several local groups, including the Tom Smith Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans, that helps the city maintain the cemetery.

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Several years ago, the club began helping with urgent needs within the cemetery, such as repeated incidents of vandalism and theft of markers, as well as accidental damage of the markers from mowers. In addition, markers were disappearing at an alarming rate, whether through theft or from sinking into the ground — being covered over with dirt and forgotten.

Now that a fence around the cemetery has helped curb the thefts and vandalism, the club, city and other groups are turning toward a long-range plan for the cemetery. The club already has restored the watering fountain in the center of the cemetery and planting the Heritage Garden and scatter garden. A small archeological survey also confirmed the long-held suspicion that a large piece of land in the middle of the cemetery contains unmarked graves.

“Now that the urgent concerns of vandalism and deterioration of the site have been addressed, a conservation assessment and maintenance plan is required to properly repair gravestones and develop an appropriate plan for overall maintenance,” the club’s grant application states.

During a walking tour of the cemetery this week, club members pointed out sinking headstones, iron railing that is disappearing, and monuments that have been ruined by well-intentioned attempts at cleaning them.

According to the club’s grant application, the first phase of the project should include the selection of a consultant to prepare the Cedar Hill Cemetery Master Plan, after which the city and the garden club will provide support to the consultant in conducting site visits and gathering information. All groups involved in volunteer work in the city also should come together and agree on goals, priorities and standards for the cemetery.

“By establishing and prioritizing our preservation goals for the cemetery, both professionals and volunteers will have a focused set of goals which will guide all future preservation activities,” the grant application states.