Work has begun on repairing the 102-year-old wrought-iron fence felled by Hurricane Sandy three months ago at the city's third-oldest cemetery.
After a powerful gust of wind blew over half the fence Oct. 29, 22 six-foot-tall, rusty fence sections laid on the sidewalk along Liberty Street, a stretch that marks the north side of Mortimer Cemetery in the north end.
August L. DeFrance, president of the city's Old Burying Ground Association, says after meeting with city insurance representatives, public works staff, the Federal Emergency Management Association and the State Historic Preservation Office, a decision was made.
"We're going to put the old fence back up. It needed to be taken apart, repaired — and this is not a one-week job," DeFrance said. "This thing came down in one big piece. We need to separate each section, all the concrete has to be removed, the legs that are rotten on the bottom."
The barrier will be put back up on the same footing and city insurance is expected to cover the majority of repair costs, although the total, DeFrance said, is yet unknown.
No timeframe has been set, he said, but it's a labor-intensive job. "They're going to do it as fast as they can."
Famous Middletowners buried at Mortimer include Revolutionary War Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons and Titus Hosmer, a Continental Congressman and signer of the Articles of Confederation. Also interred there are families like the Bacons, Hubbards, Mathes, Southmayds, Wetmores and Russells — among the city's earliest residents.
And perhaps Middletown's most famous historical figure — Joseph Fenno King Mansfield — was originally buried in Mortimer Cemetery in 1862. He was reburied in Indian Hill Cemetery near Wesleyan University by his wife on May 30, 1867.
Mortimer is one of three cemeteries in Middletown that are listed on the state register of historic places. In fact, the third, Indian Hill Cemetery on Vine Street, was just placed on the list a few weeks ago.
DeFrance said he was surprised to discover this burying ground off Washington Street, built in 1850, was not already on the register. "We're quite excited over it," he said of the Old Burying Ground Association members.
Inclusion on the list means Indian Hill is now eligible to apply for grants to complete some long lingering restoration projects.
"We have a lot of stuff in there we want to do," DeFrance said. "We want to restore the 1867 chapel, we'll be looking for some engineering studies, some grants, and we already have a fundraising group."
The Old Washington Street Cemetery on Vine, built in 1739, the city's second oldest, is the third city resting grounds on the state historic register. Riverside Cemetery is the oldest.
- Revolutionary War-Era Cemetery Fence Felled by Hurricane Sandy