Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beechwood Cemetery

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've been living two blocks away from the Beechwood Cemetery for the last eight years, and I'd never been in there before this week.

The cemetary was built on a 160 acre tract of woodland along Hemlock Road in east end Ottawa (see map below). The main entrance is on Hemlock Road, and there is a secondary one on St.Laurent Blvd, next to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. If you're driving, there's parking at the main entrance on Hemlock Road. If you're a transit user, take the No. 7 St.Laurent from downtown.

Beechwood Cemetery was founded in 1873, which makes it one of the oldest cemeteries in Ottawa, and designated as a national historic site in 2002. It contains Canada's National Military Cemetery, which is maintained jointly with the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. There is a Chinese section near the St.Laurent Blvd entrance, and a Lebanese one in the newer area on the south side of the site.

So far I've only seen the cemetery in the fall, but it must be gorgeous in all seasons. The Botanical Garden near the Hemlock Road entrance is beautiful even in its current state, with gold and red maples reflecting in the pond.

Quite aside from its natural beauty, the cemetery is also a fascinating history tour. The oldest section is the final resting place of former Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, NDP founder Tommy Douglas and fomer Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn. Other notable graves include those of lumber barons Henry Franklin Bronson, J.R. Booth and Alonzo Wright.

The Department of National Defence has a site map of the cemetery here, with the shaded areas indicating the National Military Cemetery.

As a footnote, Notre-Dame Catholic Cemetery immediately to the south is also beautiful, if not quite as enchanting as Beechwood. Notable graves at Notre-Dame include those of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Ottawa photographer Yousuf Karsh, both located near the Montreal Road entrance.