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CHEsTnuT HiLL LoCaL

Thursday, February 8, 2018

‘Till Death Do Us Part’: a tale of a buried heart at Laurel Hill by Maddie Clark

“W

hy the hell would anyone want to come to a cemetery with their significant other to celebrate Valentine’s Day?” asks Gwen Kaminski. “Because cemeteries can be super romantic.” It may also be due to the fact that the heart of a woman, and only her heart, was buried six feet under the earth at the Laurel Hill Cemetery per her final wishes. On Saturday, Feb. 10, Gwen Kaminski, director of development

and programs at Laurel Hill Cemetery will act as tour guide for the cemetery’s annual “Till Death Do Us Part: Love Stories of Laurel Hill.” Although the cemetery was founded in 1836, this idea of a Valentine’s Day themed walking tour did not take shape until Kaminski’s hire in 2005. With over 175 years of burial records at her disposal, Kaminski one day stumbled on the interment file of a peculiar woman named Mary Peterson. It was Peterson’s final wish to have her heart removed from her body post mortem and buried next to

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Tourists at last year’s “Till Death Do Us Part” at Laurel Hill.

her husband, Thomas Howard Peterson, who had died decades earlier. Following the discovery of Peterson’s story, it immediately sparked the idea for a Valentine’s day tour because as Kaminski puts it, there other love stories to be shared.

Though historians were not able to discover the true nature of her husband’s death in 1881, Peterson’s story still continued on. When she died in 1912, Peterson elected to have the rest of her body buried in a Catholic burial ground in northeast Philadel-

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phia with her parents, while her heart would be laid to rest with her husband. Despite the fact that Peterson later remarried, “her heart always remained [with her first husband], physically and metaphorically,” said Kaminski. While the idea of a tour throughout a cemetery on what is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year may seem macabre to the general public, the Laurel Hill Cemetery has always acted as a communal area for local residents. Dating all the way back to the Victorian era, the cemetery predated public parks and museums. “This is where Philadelphians of yesteryear would come for recreation, entertainment and even what we would call dates today,” according to Kaminski. Even in a venue surrounded by death, Laurel Hill was meant to be a place for people to enjoy life. In trying to remind guests why they’re in a cemetery celebrating Valentine’s Day, Kaminski introduces the tour with a story regarding human remains from about 6,000 years ago that still continue to exist in a locking embrace. As Kaminski states, the couple are “very symbolically connected in love.” Based on the state of the couple’s teeth when they died, it was determined that they passed at a very young age. Their remains were also discovered outside Verona, Italy, the city where the tragic love story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet took place. Kaminski also begins the tour with the tale of two men who were laid to rest inside an Egyptian tomb around 2500 BC. When the tomb was discovered in the 1960s, historians saw that the outside of the tomb was covered with images of two men hugging, kissing and other symbols that celebrated their love. Kaminski even leads the tour to where the real-life monuments of Adrian and Paulie still stand from when the film Creed was filmed in Philadelphia. Though these introductory stories are not directly tied to the Laurel Hill Cemetery, Kaminski chooses to introduce the tour with these two accounts in order to set the scene and to show how someone could connect these ideas of romanticism and love with a cemetery. “I see it as my job to really make sure [guests] have a fun time and that they learn interesting stories and even come back for more events,” stated Kaminski. While the Valentine’s Day themed tour is a large attraction for the cemetery, it is not the only event that is held throughout the year. There are also several fundraisers such as the Grave Diggers Ball, a black tie and costume gala, and the 5k run throughout the cemetery where participants can also choose to dress up and even bring their pets if desired. With the many events that Laurel Hill hosts throughout the year, all of the proceeds go back into the restoration and preservation of the cemetery. This insures that the history of Laurel Hill can continue to be shared with the public. For those who are still leery of the idea of a cemetery hosting human interest events in a sacred burial ground, Kaminski states that people choose to be buried here in Laurel Hill because they want their stories remembered, “so we’re doing that for them today … we’re paying homage to what the cemetery was established for in the first place.”


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Share the love at Hill’s annual ‘Valentines on Ice’

by Christine Wolkin

T

he Chestnut Hill Business District invites residents to “chill out” at its Fourth Annual “Valentines on Ice” celebration on Sunday, Feb. 11, at Laurel Hill Gardens. The nursery will play host to an Arctic Village – an ice village complete with polar bears, a walrus throne and an igloo. “This February, our business district is excited to offer a revamped Valentines on Ice event that will give visitors and locals even more of a reason to love Chestnut Hill,” said Philip Dawson, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business District. From noon to 5 p.m., Chestnut Hill visitors can view nearly 20 masterfully crafted ice sculptures outside shops and businesses along Germantown Avenue crafted by Fear No Ice, the world’s first and only performance ice sculpting company. The world-renowned and Philadelphiabased team will also sculpt and perform live during the celebration from noon to 2 p.m. “Ice is this magical experience,” said ice sculptor Peter Slavin, creative partner of Ice Sculpture Philly. “As long as we’re having a good time, our goal is to make the world cooler.” Last year, the Mount Airy resident and father of two carved characters from “Frozen” and other cool sculptures from a huge block of ice. As an extra surprise, Queen Elsa herself made an appearance and was available for wintry photos. Slavin has traveled to more than 150 countries, performing theatrical ice sculpting shows and competing in ice sculpting contests around the world, including the Winter Olympics. A combination of action adventure, slapstick humor, drama and audience participation, Ice Sculpture Philly performances are always made with fun and 100 percent Philadelphia water. “In seven to 15 minutes we’ll sculpt 3,000 pounds of ice,” said Slavin. When it’s time for a break from the chilly weather, stop by one of five “Heart-Warming Stations” located between the 7900 and 8600 block of Germantown Avenue for fire pits, wine and cheese tastings, hot beverages, and snacks. Or, if you’re still in need of a gift for your special Valentine, take advantage of “red-hot” Valentines shopping

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promotions during the last shopping weekend before the holiday at participating retailers. If you spot two giant red hearts on Germantown Avenue, take a selfie with your Valentine and share that social media-worthy photo. Tag #chestnuthillpa at one of these “I heart CH” photo spots for a chance to win a $100 gift card, good to use at participating businesses in Chestnut Hill. This event is free and taking place mostly between the 7900 and 8600 blocks of Germantown Avenue. For more information, visit www.chestnuthillpa.com.

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Bronze design by local artist at ‘Galler y on the Avenue’

T Ice sculptor Peter Slavin.

CHEsTnuT HiLL LoCaL

he dance between “art for art’s sake” and functional, exquisite design is alive and well at the Gallery on the Avenue, 8433 Germantown Ave, where one can experience Christopher Ward’s unique bronze interior design art objects. Inspired by the delicate modernist bronze tables of Alberto Giacometti, Ward’s new work is rooted in nature, in the twisted branches and twigs he discovers walking his dog in the Wissahickon. His art has an authenticity that is clearly his own, cast by hand at the foundry of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Ward’s tables are a bouquet of natural found objects: oak leaves, acorns and fallen tree branches. New work is available by commission and can be size specific. Most notable in the current show is the 7’ x 3.5’ bronze dining

room table made from tree branches. Its long and delicate bronze legs join underneath with an exquisite oak-leafed acorn arrangement which seems to float weightlessly beneath its glass tabletop. This piece would be equally at home at a gathering in Midsummer Night’s Dream, or in the palace of Versailles. It’s truly a remarkable showpiece that enhances any setting. Following nature’s inspiration, Ward has also created large bronze maple leaves, which serve as evocative wall sconces. They shimmer in golden contrast to the ultramarine walls of the gallery and cast a halo of radiant light, transforming their environment. Also in the show are oakbranched delicate candlesticks, homages to nature, 18” tall branches with bronze oak leaves and acorns. Each candlestick is unique,

artistic and functional, capable of illuminating the perfect dinner table. It is impossible not to be stirred by these nature-inspired, Giacometti-like creations. They are natural, artistic and functional, where each piece has its own unique resonance. Ward’s classical bronze sculpture is also featured at the gallery, and showcases his extensive training and influences, from Michelangelo to Rodin. His expansion into interior design art objects inspired by nature is a welcome new foray. Also featured in this show are oil paintings and charcoal and pastel drawings by Noelle Wister and Judith McCabe Jarvis. A special Valentine Eve Opening will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 5 to 8 p.m. Gallery hours: Thursday to Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m., or by appointment (215) 740 6436

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