Time has a way of wearing down all objects, even those we think as permanent as stone. And Historic St. Luke’s gravestones are no exception, where the earliest marker original to the site is from 1767. Moss, lichen, acid rain, tree limbs, and just the passage of decades have all amassed to make many of the stones illegible. Some have broken over time; some are settling into the ground. And if action is not taken, these stones could be lost to future generations.
As a first step to combat this problem, a group of Historic St. Luke’s staff members and a volunteer recently attended a cemetery preservation workshop conducted by folks from the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. The setting was the beautiful Ware Episcopal Church in Gloucester – built around 1718 – and its accompanying cemetery.
Here we learned the proper techniques for cleaning and preserving stones, which should only be done every 5-10 years due to the wear on the marker. Trust me when I say it is not quick or easy work. In some instances, lichen is rolled off by hand; or bamboo skewers and popsicle sticks can be used. Water and a natural bristle brush are the second option, followed by mild chemicals.
So this process will all take time. To that end, Historic St. Luke’s has created an interesting event to introduce the plight of our gravestones, as well as hopefully raise donations and recruit volunteers to assist in this endeavor.
Cemetery Twilight Tours will be offered this Friday, Oct. 14, and Oct. 21. Tour times have been selling out and tickets are now limited. Please visit historicstlukes.org/product/
For more information on how you can help preserve our cemetery, please email me at jvanhoorebeck@historicstlukes.