When I heard earlier in the week about a special event they were having at Bellefontaine Cemetery today, Tony and I planned our day around it. I'm glad I did!
Bellefontaine Cemetery was established in 1850 as part of a rural cemetery movement, which created burial grounds in park-like settings outside of urban centers. Over the years I've driven past it on my way to Calvary (an adjoining Catholic cemetery where many of Tony's and my relatives are buried) but I've never been inside its gates before today.
Because this was a day of adventure, our first task was finding a Mass. We decided on St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, which is located next to St. Louis University. It took us longer to get there then we'd thought, and finding a place to park was a bit of a challenge, but we were entering our pew 30 seconds before the priest started walking down the aisle. The church's friendly parishioners, great choir, and beautiful Gothic Revival architecture made for a wonderful service.
After Mass it was time for lunch. We'd decided to go to an Old North St. Louis institution that I haven't eaten at in years, Crown Candy Kitchen, which was just a fifteen minute drive away. Crown Candy was opened in 1913, and now it's being run by the third and fourth generation of the family. In addition to candy, it's known for its shakes, malts, and ice cream treats. We arrived about 11:30 and stood in a short line for a table (there were two groups ahead of us), but soon the line stretched out the door.
I briefly thought about having a shake with my meal, but decided to save all the sweetness for dessert. I ordered a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and whole pecans. Tony got a Crown Sundae, which was like mine with the addition of caramel sauce. The ice cream is made with 14% butterfat, and the hot fudge sauce was so thick and chewy that the menu warned that it was not for people with dentures! After I finished, my hands were so sticky that a trip to the bathroom was in order.
After lunch it was a quick ten minute drive to Bellefontaine Cemetery for the day's main event. Today's program was called Bellefontaine in Bloom. They had walking, horse-drawn carriage, and golf cart tours to the grave sites of many of the notables buried there. Today visitors could step inside the usually closed mausoleums of the Lemp and Wainwright families. There was a food tent with finger foods made from recipes in Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking (she's buried in the cemetery), and a jazz group playing New Orleans style music.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the best day for outdoor activities. The temperature was downright chilly, and a fine misty rain kept starting and stopping. I wore a jacket topped with a raincoat, and had to keep putting the hood up and taking it off. We took a carriage and a walking tour, both of which were led by knowledgeable docents. Some of the notable gravesites we saw: William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame), beer barons Adolphus Busch and the Lemp family, the Wainwrights (he planned the Wainwright Building, one of the first skyscrapers in the world; the tomb was designed by architect Louis Sullivan), and the poet Sara Teasdale. Even though I was stuffed from lunch, I sampled some of the treats in the food tent.
The cemetery contains over 14 miles of winding roads. We only saw a small percentage; I picked up brochures for cemetery walking tours of notable people and Civil War graves. I think I'll be returning sometime!