BRATTLEBORO >> Within the last two weeks, someone vandalized the Brattleboro Retreat Cemetery.
Four months ago, a $10,000 gift from the Ben & Jerry's Foundation was made in honor of a former Retreat trustee, Julie Peterson, for a Brattleboro Retreat Cemetery restoration project. Abbiati Monuments in Brattleboro and the Retreat's facilities and grounds crew performed landscaping and miscellaneous repairs and upgrades in November of 2015. On Friday, a groundskeeper noticed that four perimeter granite posts were knocked down.
"We're assuming it was vandalism fairly recently," said Brach Emich, Director of Operations at the Brattleboro Retreat. "It looks like they were all kicked if you ask me."
Four granite fence posts along the perimeter of the cemetery were set in concrete in the fall of 2015 for a restoration project, now they are lying on the ground. Emich and John Sohl, the Director of Facilities at the Retreat, do not believe that this damage was caused by weather.
"Wind did not break four stones, it just didn't," said Sohl. "And it's very recent, the stone discolors on the side, and where it broke you can see it's very bright and fresh and has not been exposed for very long at all."
For the restoration project that occurred in the fall, granite posts were repositioned, 20 stones were preserved from further erosion with wooden frames placed around the stones lying on the ground. The stones that were framed were split or had pieces missing from the bottom, which did not allow them to be stood up. They also reset about 20 different stones. In addition, a large piece of engraved granite outside of the perimeter fencing displays a brief history about the Brattleboro Retreat cemetery as well as a Robert Frost poem that the executive coordinator at the Brattleboro Retreat, Brenda Nichols, found fitting.
From here, Konstantin von Krusenstiern, the Vice President of Strategy and Development at the Retreat, says they will try to get a quote from Abbiati Monuments on how much the repairs will cost and then host a re-dedication service for the cemetery sometime in May this year. Von Krusenstiern said they would also like to install some type of surveillance to prevent further vandalism.
"This is still a place of peace and solitude, and as its caretakers it is our responsibility to make sure it is kept up to date" said Brenda Nichols, executive coordinator at the Brattleboro Retreat, in a previous interview. Nichols is also the unofficial historian within the Retreat and has lived in the area since her early childhood.
There is one known tangible record of Retreat burials that was written inside of a delicate book, "The Old Burying Ground: An early journal dated back to the 1930s. The cemetery, which is located behind the old Anna Marsh building, among the Retreat trails, has a record of 659 people that have been buried there. There are notes next to some of the names that state "removed" or replaced." According to "The Brattleboro Retreat: 150 Years of Caring," "(The trustees) also decided to move some of the graves to Morningside Cemetery in Brattleboro." In addition, there is a map at Brattleboro.org that shows where a cemetery may have been located adjacent to East Orchard Street. At that time, this body of land was owned by the Brattleboro Retreat.
In addition, there is a map at Brattleboro.org that shows where a cemetery may have been located adjacent to East Orchard Street. At that time, this body of land was owned by the Brattleboro Retreat.
"Very sad," said Louis Josephson, the President and CEO at the Retreat about the vandalism. "Let's fix it up and have a great re-dedication event to counter this senseless act."
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275