Photography and text by George Cassidy Payne
While getting lost trying to find the Herman Melville house in Troy, NY, my father and I stumbled upon a cemetery that I had read about but had no intentions of visiting prior to my trip. Boy am I glad that we got lost!
Surrounded by dense foliage and rolling lawns, Oakwood Cemetery is one of America’s largest rural cemeteries. In addition to its beautiful natural landscapes, Oakwood is the final resting place of many of the area’s most prominent citizens, including “Uncle Sam” Wilson, progenitor of the famous Uncle Sam icon, Emma Williard, a pioneer of the women’s rights movement, Russell Sage, the railroad executive and partner of Jay Gould, and Civil War medal of honor recipient William Henry Freeman.
But the real jewel of the cemetery is the Earl Memorial and Chapel, which is arguably the most architecturally and technologically sophisticated of the nation’s early public crematoria. Trust me, it’s well worth a stopover if you are anywhere near the Capital District. Not only is the stone masonry a superb example of the Romanesque style, it boasts extraordinary views of the Hudson River Valley.