David Osborn (site manager), at 914-667-4116; firstname.lastname@example.org
New Self Guided Tours Explore the historic grounds of St. Paul’s Church in Westchester County
Self guided tours exploring history and nature at St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site in Mt. Vernon are now available to the public, it has been announced.
The messages -- poignant, sobering, spiritual -- captured in epitaphs chiseled into gravestones over three centuries forms the core of one of the walking tours, according to St. Paul’s site manager David Osborn. Poetry selections, Biblical passages, notices of historical events, achievements and touching farewells are represented on the markers, he says.
A brief note on an early 19th century sandstone marker implores, “Reader, behold and drop a tear. Here lies a tender husband, an affection father and a dear friend.” A Revolutionary War officer’s service is memorialized: “Thus after returning victorious from the Field of Mars, he cheerfully obeys the summons to eternity from whence there is no return.” In the church yard, religious beliefs commonly facilitate the acceptance of the death of loved ones, including this assurance from a young widow on an 1806 marker: “In this dark tomb remains my partner dear, so much esteemed and loved by me while here. I hope and trust to see thee as thou art, in heavenly glory never more to part.”
A location map, text of the messages and notes on the significance and origins of the 12 selected epitaphs are offered in the self guided literature.
Visitors can investigate the history and variety of trees on the six acre site through the other self guided tour, says Osborn. Designated as the town common in colonial times, the St. Paul’s grounds would have been cleared of most trees, accommodating space for community activities. “However, during the mid to late 19th century, with the development of the cemetery as a place for tranquility and reflection, trees were either planted or permitted to grow,” he explains.
Today, most of the trees are hardy specimens, capable of withstanding the surrounding industrial setting. Featured trees include Locusts, a variety of Maples and Oaks, Sourwood, Colorado Blue Spruce, Sweetgum, Hawthorns, Flowering Dogwood, Weeping Willow, Smoke Tree and a Sycamore planted in the late 19th century. A location map and brief explanations of the 16 specimens are available in the self guided tour brochure.
The estimated duration of each walking tour is 45 minutes, although visitors are certainly welcome to spend more time exploring these themes. Guides are distributed in the St. Paul’s museum; they are also available at www.nps.gov/sapa, under Things To Do, Plan Your Visit, Virtual Exhibits.
St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site is accessible by the Hutchinson River Parkway (Exit 7, Boston Post Road or Exit 8, Sandford Blvd.) and Interstate 95 (Exit 13, Conner Street) from Westchester County, New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey. The site is also convenient to public transportation from New York City. Regular hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, and the second Saturday of each month from noon to 4 PM. St. Paul’s is open from 1 PM to 9 PM on the First Thursday of each month For additional information, please call 914-667-4116, or visit us on line at www.nps.gov/sapa.