HARDWICK – On Sunday, September 18, at 3 p.m., cemetery historian and author Ron Romano will lead a tour of the Hardwick Center Cemetery to highlight the “billboard monuments” there. These grave markers, consisting of large marble slabs usually held aloft by granite posts resembling signboards, were produced in New England in the mid-1800s. Romano’s tour will touch on the evolution of cemetery landscapes, monument materials, monument styles, gravestone symbolism and burial practices from the colonial period to present day.
On Monday, September 19, at 7 p.m. Romano will present a program about tombstones at the Hardwick Town House. In a presentation rich with images from Vermont, Romano will share his original research into billboard tombstones, discussing their origins, construction features, and dates of production. Findings about some of those memorialized on the Vermont billboards round out this 45-minute talk.
According to Romano’s research, Vermont has only 27 such tombstones, of which three mark graves in Hardwick’s Center Cemetery on Shepard Lane, off Bridgman Hill Road. Three more are found in East Hardwick, making the area, with a quarter of the state’s total number, the Vermont hotspot for these special monuments. Romano features all of Vermont’s billboard markers in his new book, “Curious Gravestones in Northern New England.” As is true for similar stones in Maine, the Vermont stones were often purchased by families to memorialize multiple family members who’d died within a short period of time.
Romano is the author of four cemetery- and gravestone-themed books. He is an officer on the board of the Association for Gravestone Studies, the leading organization in America for cemetery and gravestone studies. He has designed and led tours at more than a dozen historic cemeteries in southern Maine. Though he’s a native and current resident of Portland, Me., he lived in Saxtons River from 2001 to 2011 and visits Vermont regularly.