A 150-foot span of wrought iron fence enclosing Middletown’s third oldest cemetery came crashing down last week after a powerful gust of wind during Hurricane Sandy.
Twenty-two six-foot-tall, rusty fence sections lie on the sidewalk along Liberty Street, a stretch that for 101 years has stood along the north side of Mortimer Cemetery in the city’s north end.
Riverside Cemetery is the oldest, behind O'Rourke's Diner; and Vine Street Cemetery, near Wesleyan University is the second oldest.
August L. DeFrance, president of the city's says police called him last Tuesday morning to inform him of the damage. “Thank God nobody was near it,” he said. “It came down all in one piece.”
It's a surprising sight to see such old grave markers and headstones open to the elements as yellow police tape cordons off the area. Both the east and west sides of the cemetery are bordered by high concrete walls.
Famous Middletowners buried there include Revolutionary War Generals Samuel Holden Parsons and Titus Hosmer.
Already DeFrance has had two people look at the fencing to appraise a replacement cost. He expects the city will bear the brunt of the cost, unless it falls under hurricane damage from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He is unsure of what the cost estimates will be.
The cemetery was built in 1778, a gift from Phillip Mortimer to the city, according to a plaque near the entrance. The fence itself dates to 1911, when it was erected by the Middletown Old Burying Ground Association.
DeFrance has asked Middletown Police to make extra patrols along the area to make sure there are no trespassers. Although there has been vandalism in the past at Mortimer Cemetery, it’s been mostly confined to people throwing garbage or junk like old tables over the fence into the cemetery.
It’s not uncommon to see newspaper flyers inside the fence among the crypts and brownstone and marble headstones, carried there by winds.
The Hale Collection of Connecticut has chronicled every person's name in the cemetery.