MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — People are growing concerned about new damage at one of Mobile’s oldest cemeteries. A local tour guide is asking the city to do more after some fresh damage during the Mardi Gras season. These are things you don’t want at a cemetery–damage, desecration, trash, fires, and camping.
Todd Duren runs Secret History Tours and makes stops at the Church Street Cemetery next to the Ben May Main Library on a regular basis. Sunday he posted images of some relatively recent vandalism and damage to his Facebook Page. Going around the cemetery you can see freshly broken tombstones and markers. You can tell they’re fresh because the inside of the stone is starkly white compared to the outside.
We also saw at least one man camping at the cemetery Tuesday morning–trying to get some sleep. There was clear evidence, from burn marks on the ground to trash left behind, that a lot of people are using this place as a campground. Duren said it’s got to stop
“I think any city, the quality of the city is measured by how they care for graveyards, this is a beautiful and historical city, people come here for that and this is a neighborhood just like any historic neighborhood,” said Todd Duren with Secret History Tours. Unique stonework like a table grave was damaged, it appears to have been pushed off of its legs. Other tombstones appear freshly cracked into pieces, these are valuable artifacts that help describe Mobile’s rich and diverse past.
“You see the stones behind me that are broken and I tell the story of Ms. Kelly who’s a Scottish immigrant and so she’s part of the stories we tell of Mobile and when I saw her stone was broken I was upset and angry,” said Duren. There’s a lot of history in this place. It’s a rare example of a 19th-century interfaith graveyard and boasts Alabama’s oldest Jewish Graves.
Duren would like to see more security and more regular cleanups.
When asked for a comment we got this statement from City Communications Director Candace Cooksey:
We are very concerned about recent reports of trespassing and vandalism in downtown Mobile’s historic Church Street Cemetery.
Our Parks and Recreation maintenance teams, which mow and clean the cemetery property as part of their normal rotations, recently discovered damage to headstones and other parts of the cemetery. They have since reported this issue to the Mobile Police Department, which is currently investigating the matter further. Officers will also be increasing patrols of the area, particularly at night when the cemetery is closed to the public. The City has previously engaged a third-party contractor to assess the kinds of repairs and improvements needed in the cemetery. Following some additional assessment, we are looking to make repairs and improvements to the Church Street Cemetary as part of a future capital improvement project.