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Mount Moriah Cemetery gatehouse nominated to the 11 most endangered

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Built by Philadelphia architect Stephen Decatur Buttons in 1855 the Mount Moriah Cemetery gatehouse has been nominated to the National Trusts 11 most endangered historic sites in the US for 2014. The grand structure, that greeted the families of the over 100,000 buried there is now, in a state of "demolition by neglect" says E. Madeleine Scheerer former Assistant Fairmount Park Historian and former Architectural Historian/Historian for URS Inc. Born in Philadelphia Ms. Scheerer says "the gatehouse is more architecturally grand than those in Laurel Hills and the Woodlands" and "is also a sculpture that can be appreciated by people and an introduction to one of the last Victorian rural cemeteries in Philadelphia."

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Mount Moriah Cemetery was abandoned in 2011 and the city of Philadelphia began working with the courts to find a receiver. Mayor Michael Nutter appointed Brian Abernathy, then chief of staff to the managing director of the City of Philadelphia and now Executive Director of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, to oversee the process. Starting with a city sponsored clean up in 2011, manged by the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. and their Founder President Dan Callahan, clean ups still continue today. The city has partnered with Yeadon Borough to create the Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation, led by Brian Abernathy as their President, to find a new owner. Abernathy said "The situation is now too big to ignore. Our goal is to turn Mount Moriah around." With all the landscaping work done hundreds of volunteers from dozens of groups and institutions, the Buttons Gatehouse continues to deteriorate untouched.

Ms. Scheerer wrote, in her nomination, about what can be done to save the gatehouse, "Get Involved. The Friends of Mt Moriah Cemetery is a volunteer group whose hands are tied by the City. They are relegated to mowing the grass and helping people find their deceased relatives. Public attention would force the City to allow this group to work on restoration of the gatehouse and the actual cemetery."

Ms. Scheerer is also working on nominating this building to the National Register. She reported "If the City of Philadelphia would move faster on the receivership issue and fund construction of a skeleton around the building this would give the volunteer group time to raise funds to restore the building. It can be used as a special events venue once restored or rehabbed."

Commenting about the future of Mount Moriah Cemetery and it's historic gatehouse being in blighted Southwest she wrote "thoughts seems to be that its in an alleged bad neighborhood and people will not visit the site. Most of Fairmount Park's mansions are in so called bad neighborhoods yet get thousands of people visit them annually."


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