Thursday, July 26, 2001

Ky. to restore burial grounds

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — In the fall of 1868, when William Hamilton was buried in Linden Grove Cemetery, he probably had one of the graveyard's more prominent monuments.

        But 133 years later, the white marble column marking Mr. Hamilton's grave has lost its sheen. The top of the monument, at one time nearly 6 feet high, has been toppled.

[photo] Chris Warneford (left), Kenton County public works superintendent, points out to Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler (shading eyes) an area in Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington that sometimes floods in heavy rain
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Repairs to graves like Mr. Hamilton's and grounds maintenance could be on the way at Linden Grove and other cemeteries around the state, under a new restoration program started by Attorney General Ben Chandler.

        Mr. Chandler and members of the Cemetery Restoration Task Force toured Linden Grove on Wednesday afternoon.

        “In every region of this state, we've got cemeteries that are not being taken care of properly,” Mr. Chandler said. “They're not properly funded, and these cemeteries contain ancestors of those who live in the communities now. The people in these cemeteries are the people who built these communities.

        “We ought to show them the proper respect; we ought to honor those people in the proper fashion. That's what we're trying to do,” he said.

        Mr. Chandler's office has about $1.5 million that could be used for cemetery restoration. The money came from an allocation from the Kentucky General Assembly for that purpose and from lawsuits won by the Attorney General's consumer protection division.

        Linden Grove Cemetery opened in 1843, but in 1855 fell into financial difficulties lasting more than a century. A court order placed the property into a receivership in 1941, but three years ago the city of Covington and the Kenton County Fiscal Court agreed — at the urging of Kenton District Judge Douglas Stephens — to take over operation and maintenance of the 27-acre cemetery, located at 14th Street and Holman Avenue.

        A trust was formed, and the county and city each pay about $35,000 annually for maintenance, including cutting the grass, said Covington City Manager Greg Jarvis.

        Crews have also repaired gravel roads, removed broken tree limbs, and cleaned and repaired some of the headstones, said Chris Warneford, the county's public works director.

        “But we can only do so much,” Mr. Warneford said. “We keep it up, cut the grass, but some more work needs to be done that we just don't have all the resources for.”

        That work includes repairing headstones and monuments, landscaping, repairing the fence surrounding the cemetery and preventing flooding that sometimes occurs after heavy rains.

        Alex Weldon, a historic preservation consultant who works with the city, said the cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places.

        “This is one of the last real pieces of green space Covington has,” Ms. Weldon said. “It's not in horrible shape, but it really needs some TLC.”

        Mr. Chandler said the task force has been touring cemeteries around the state. Next year it will make recommendations to the Kentucky General Assembly on what work needs to be done and how much it will cost.

        “There is a lot of history here and a lot of military veterans buried here,” Mr. Jarvis said as he looked out on a row of headstones. “Anything that can be done here is well worth it.”


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