Thursday, June 03, 2010

Benson Memorial: Islamic Philadelphia

Wondering through Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia with Kalliope, I came across this beautiful limestone memorial for the Benson family, which I quickly sketched on the left. It is situated against the slope of the hill facing towards the Schuylkill River with a number of equally beautiful neighbors. The monument is dated to 1868.

I haven't had a chance to research the Benson history, but I found a nice photograph in Bryn Mawr's collection taken by Robert Newell ca. 1870 (see below). The monument contains various cultural inspirations, but it most prominent features three horse-shoe arches inspired by the architecture of the Alhambra. I am reading through Washington Irving's 1832 The Alhambra to fully comprehend the cultural magnetism that Moorish Spain exercised in the antebellum imagination of young America. I have searched through all of Laurel Hill and Woodland cemeteries but have come across no other Islamic-inspired memorial. The Benson monument seems unique.

Additional posts on Islamic Philadelphia:
Rodeph Shalom Synagogue
Gibson House
Horticultural Hall

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States