Beechwood Cemetery National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, R. Goodspeed, 2000.
280 Beechwood Avenue, Manor Park, Ottawa, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1873 to 1873
Event, Person, Organization:
James Mather, architect (for buildings on site)
Robert Surtees, city engineer that designed and supervised the application of the plan.
Alpine Grant, government landscape gardener.
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: At the Beechwood National Memorial Centre Beechwood Cemetery off Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
This cemetery is a very good example of the type of rural cemetery that emerged in the United States and Canada in the 19th century. Developed from 1873 on rolling terrain bordered by a forest, Beechwood is characterized by winding roads, picturesque vistas and numerous wooded groves, as well as by its wide variety of trees, shrubs and ornamental plants. Being also the site of the National Military Cemetery of the Canadian Forces, Beechwood, with its beautiful setting and many monuments of considerable artistic and historical interest, invites contemplation and remembrance.
Description of Historic Place
Beechwood Cemetery is a large,19th-century cemetery located in Ottawa. Established in 1873, the cemetery is comprised of landscaped grounds with roads, paths, buildings and monuments. It is located on rolling terrain, bordered by a forest. The formal recognition consists of approximately 65 hectares of property, an estimated 25,000 monuments, a mausoleum, a former residence (now administration building), a utilities building, a double residence, a former stables, a gazebo, a pagoda, and two small stone walls (gates) flanking the main entrance. The designated place is limited to the boundaries of the cemetery.
Beechwood Cemetery was designated a national historic site in 2000 because it is an exceptional example of 19th-century rural cemetery design, characterized by a naturalistic, pastoral and picturesque landscape of many perspectives. Beechwood Cemetery was also designated a national historic site because: it contains two very good examples of landscape expressing distinctive cultural traditions - the Chinese Cemetery designed according to Chinese religious principles, and a highly visible military cemetery; and it contains a concentration of mausolea, monuments, and markers of architectural and of historical interest that illustrate many aspects of the history of Canada, the Province of Ontario and Ottawa.
Beechwood Cemetery illustrates the type of rural or garden cemetery that emerged in the United States and Canada in the mid-19th century. It typifies the rural cemetery in its use of a naturalistic setting to attract and comfort the living; its creation of a secure space for the dead; its use of funerary monuments to perpetuate the memory of individuals of historic importance; and its layout as a park-like space for public use.
It retains much of its original character in its layout of interlacing, winding roads and islets of irregular shapes and varying sizes, and funerary monuments of differing styles and materials, set within a rolling landscape of trees, shrubs and plants with many picturesque views.
The cemetery plan was designed and supervised by city engineer Robert Surtees and laid out by government landscape gardener Alpine Grant. The cemetery includes 19th-century buildings and structures designed by Ottawa architect James Mather in consultation with Surtees; a stone residence constructed in the 1880s using limestone quarried from the cemetery; a double residence for gardeners and foremen; a former stable building; and stone entrance gates. Both Surtees and Mather held executive positions with the cemetery and are buried there.
The Chinese Cemetery consists of graves dating to the 1920s, and a memorial garden designed and constructed in 1996 by the Chinese community in keeping with traditional Chinese architectural and religious traditions. The garden includes a pagoda with a granite altar and bronze incense burner, and is used by the community to pay respects to their ancestors.
Beechwood Cemetery is the site of the National Military Cemetery of the Canadian Forces, purchased by the Department of National Defence in 1944 for interment of veterans of the Canadian Forces (CF). The military cemetery is prominently located at the centre of Beechwood and is distinguished by its uniform grave markers and a central military monument.
Beechwood Cemetery exhibits a range of headstones reflecting different periods in the development of the cemetery in terms of styles, materials and symbolism. The cemetery contains the gravesites of many individuals noted for their contributions on a national, provincial or local level, as well as interments from earlier cemeteries in the Ottawa area. The cemetery also includes several stone mausolea, including a Gothic Revival stone mausoleum designed by W. Ralston and notable for its attractive proportions, design, stonework and detailing.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, December 2000; Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Plaque Text, 2000.
Key elements that relate to the heritage value of the Beechwood Cemetery site as a whole include: its original plan, with curvilinear roads and irregular islets of curved shapes and differing sizes; its hilly terrain with many trees, shrubs and flowering plants; the uncultivated forest area forming a buffer along the west, northwest and north boundaries of the cemetery; its large collection of different varieties of hosta plants; its collection of unusual plant species, including manchurian lilac, putty-root orchid and glade fern; its 19th-century buildings and structures built with limestone quarried from the cemetery site, including: the former superintendent's residence; a double staff residence; the former stables; and two stone walls (gates) at the main entrance; the variety of styles, materials and symbolism represented in its monuments and markers; plot areas set aside for paupers, the old Protestant Orphans' Home, the old Protestant Home for the Aged, and children and infants; clusters of graves belonging to ethnic communities, including Germans, Lebanese Christians and Chinese.
Key elements that relate to the heritage value of the military cemetery include: its location at the centre of Beechwood Cemetery; its restricted use for interment of veterans of the CF and its predecessors from the Northwest Resistance onwards; its uniform grave markers; the Cross of Sacrifice erected by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and its central placement within the military cemetery; the shelter erected by Veterans Affairs, and the various memorials contained in it, including: the Cremation Memorial, listing the names of veterans cremated and; the Commission Register Box; gravesites of celebrated Canadian military leaders;
Key elements that relate to the heritage value of the Chinese cemetery include: a cluster of Chinese community graves; a memorial garden designed, constructed and landscaped according to Chinese architectural and religious traditions, consisting of: a grassed area containing flat grave markers; a cedar hedge with an entrance gate; an east-facing pagoda sitting on a raised platform and sheltering an altar and incense burner; a geometrically laid brick platform symbolizing harmony; a circular walking path; and a ring of crab trees; the continuing use of the memorial garden by the Chinese community to pay respects to their ancestors;
Key elements that relate to the heritage value of the monuments, markers and mausolea include: the gravesites of individuals noted for their contributions at a national, provincial or local level; interments from earlier cemeteries in the Ottawa area; the range of materials used for monuments, including: marble, sandstone and polished granite; the range of styles of monuments, including: Neoclassical, Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival and modern; the wide range of symbolism used on monuments, including obelisks, representations of urns, draped urns, broken columns, draped columns, sarcophagi, and angel, ivy and laurel wreath motifs; the range of size and sophistication of monuments, from modest to very elaborate low stone walls, extant around some early graves; a number of mausolea, including a 1933 Gothic Revival, stone mausoleum which houses crypts, a columbarium, a chapel and a 1961 crematorium and is notable for its attractive proportions, design, stonework and detailing.