Swan Point Cemetery adjoins Butler Hospital. Quiet contemplation in a picturesque, rural landscape was considered appropriate for cemeteries as well as mental hospitals in the mid-nineteenth century. Before Swan Point, leading families in Providence tended to have their burial plots in the North Burial Ground, which, when established in 1700, was in open country, well beyond the effective end of building on North Main Street. Typical for its time, it was essentially a field with minimal landscaping and with geometric regularity as the basic scheme for its drives. Swan Point evolved as a reaction, led by members of an active intellectual circle sympathetic to progressive early-nineteenth-century romantic ideas as to the proper setting for bereavement and commemoration. It is an early and distinguished rural landscaped cemetery—the handsomest of its type and scale in the state and among the finest in the country. At its principal gate, through a tumbled wall of cyclopean boulders completed in 1899–1900, Stone, Carpenter and Willson erected a simple trolley shelter (1904). This, too, is a pile of boulders pierced with ragged openings, under a low, shingled roof which is at once hipped and cross-gabled with deep, flaring eaves.
The 210-acre cemetery is composed of two distinct parts: the eastern section, acquired and developed between 1847 and 1870 (along the river), and the western section (toward the entrance gate), developed during the mid-twentieth century. The undulating eastern section, along the Seekonk, is heavily planted and
Cemetery, asylum, park, and parkway all are characterized by effulgent landscape in the naturalistic mode. Few places offer in such proximity the experience of four such handsome exemplars of the Victorian conviction of the beneficent effect for the city dweller of escape to nature. Together they induce “repose”—that nirvana for Victorian aesthetics, psychology, and redemption.