Torrington Cemetery Association repairs ancient crypt and preserves history



TORRINGTON – Guardians of the Center Cemetery, which was established in 1851, continued their efforts to preserve some of its history this week with work on a granite crypt.

The crypt, located in the northern part of the cemetery near the property of the Torrington Historical Society, was built in the late 1800s. It was used to store the dead in their coffins during the winter months, when the ground was frozen and the funeral was delayed. When spring came, the occupants of the crypt were taken out and each buried in their own tomb.

Mason Mike Angelicola spent Tuesday working on the crypt and should continue work next week.

“The purpose of masonry work is to preserve this historic structure, joining it to keep rainwater from entering,” said Mark McEachern, board member of the Center Cemetery Association of Torrington, who is also executive director of the historical society. “The mortar between the stones must be replaced to prevent rainwater from freezing in the winter and separating the stones.”

Angelicola has moved some of the larger stones in the crypt from its retaining wall to begin replacing the mortar, which is crumbling with age.

This particular crypt has a beautiful hewn granite front section that is built into the north side of the hill, McEachern said. “It has a beautiful marble door and an iron gate,” he said. “The cemetery dates from the 1850s, and it was probably built around 1890. Over time, the mortar joints deteriorate and water seeps in and loosens the stones. Repointing means you remove the old masonry (stones), scrape away the deteriorated mortar and replace it to get a tight seal. This is to keep water and moisture out of the masonry, which freezes and expands in the winter.

McEachern said crypts like this are a common feature in cemeteries, but he hasn’t seen another like the one in the central cemetery. “It is very unique and is part of the history of the cemetery,” he said. “There’s room for about 12 bodies in there.”

The association uses the money collected during its annual appeal to pay for the masonry work. The total cost of the project is estimated at $ 15,000 and members are doing it in several phases.

Association president Harriet Ellis, a Morris resident, joined the association with her late husband, Robert Ellis Sr.

“I grew up in Goshen and Bob was a resident of Torrington. He worked in the cemetery when he was a teenager, and his family is buried there, ”said Harriet Ellis. “A few years ago, he saw that the cemetery was not in very good condition. (Resident and Association member) Fletcher Waldron was trying to deal with it on his own, so we asked him for help. Fletcher has been invaluable in the preservation of this cemetery.

After the death of her husband 10 years ago, Harriet Ellis remained a member. Although the members could take care of the graveyard maintenance, such as mowing and weeding, they had to hire a mason to do repairs such as the crypt, she said.

“For a job like this, we needed a professional mason,” McEachern said.

The seven-member board of directors equals the total membership of the association, and other interested residents provide assistance to members during the year.

“We now have a volunteer who worked at the cemetery with his father in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was great,” Ellis said. “He picks up fallen graves and fixes them. … He mows and weeds.

The Center Cemetery was created by the Wolcottville School Society. At this time, the village center of Torrington was known as Wolcottville, and the school society, established in 1839, had the authority to levy taxes for the support of the district school and the district cemetery.

In 2010, ownership and management of the cemetery was transferred from the Wolcottville School Society to the newly established Center Cemetery Association of Torrington Inc., a not-for-profit corporation.

According to the association website, Center Cemetery is very different from colonial cemeteries, both in the style of the headstones and in the layout of the cemetery. “The oldest stones in the cemetery are brown sandstone and marble and display a refined style of professional stone carving,” the website explains. “Unfortunately, these stones are also soft and in many cases have been damaged by the weather. Examples of brownstone include many large obelisks that mark the family plots in the old section directly behind Town Hall. Most of the people buried here were English immigrants, but graves of other nationalities can be found. These include Irish, German and Italian.

“There are also stones in this area that are older than 1851, which mark the resting place of the displaced here from Eno Cemetery, an older cemetery on South Main Street that was abandoned in 1894. The first improvements to the cemetery in the center were held in In 1887, a special committee raised funds and contracted for the reclassification of the area behind the town hall to create a “smooth shaved grass” to replace “unsightly mounds , hideous with tangles of heather and weeds. “That job was assigned to Patrick Gleeson, who did the job with six men and two oxcarts. Gleeson also made a new north-south route. The curved paths. throughout the newer northern part of the cemetery reflect turn-of-the-century landscaping and the view of cemeteries as open public spaces.

“Torrington’s population grew dramatically around the turn of the century, as the promise of factory jobs drew many immigrants to Torrington. New graves and monuments practically filled the cemetery in 1905. This lack of space led to the opening of Hillside Cemetery in 1909. Some graves were moved from the central cemetery to the new and fashionable Hillside Cemetery, designed by Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Mass. “

Occupants of the central cemetery include Charlotte Hungerford, the namesake of the town hospital, other prominent members of Torrington society, and Civil War and World War I veterans.

With only seven members, the association still welcomes volunteers and donations. “Cemeteries can get out of hand and go from grass to brush within a year,” McEachern said.

Ellis said the cemetery was also vandalized. “The doors are locked because we had problems with vandals,” she said. “But people are welcome on the weekends. “

To donate, send a check payable to Center Cemetery Association of Torrington and mail it to PO Box 621, Torrington, CT 06790.

To learn more about the cemetery and to become a volunteer or member, visit



Leave A Reply