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Stories from Mount Hope: Henry McGlenen, Impresario

At the corner of Walnut Avenue and Crescent Avenue in Mount Hope Cemetery sits a granite sarcophagus-shaped monument with the epitaph: “The best part of the record of every man’s life is what he has done for others”.

At the corner of Walnut Avenue and Crescent Avenue in Mount Hope Cemetery sits a granite sarcophagus-shaped monument that is seven foot six inches high and twelve feet long.  It memorializes Henry McGlenen.  Before noting the name, a visitor walking up to the corner lot first sees the epitaph cut across the broad face of the monument: 

“The best part of the record of every man’s life is what he has done for others”

McGlenen Monument
Photograph by Richard Heath

Born in Baltimore on Nov 28, 1826, Henry became a printer's apprentice at 14. He worked in that field until enlisting in the army for the Mexican War in 1846. After the war, he worked his way up the East Coast doing various printing jobs. Finally settling in Boston in 1848, he first worked as a typesetter at The Boston Advertiser, later at the Boston Herald. 

His newspaper work brought him into contact with people in the theater world.  Eventually these interactions led Henry to a job as Business Manager at The Old Howard.  In 1871 he became Business Manager of the famed Boston Theater on Washington Street. It sat in the heart of Boston’s stage and music hall district, at the site now occupied by the Citizens Bank Opera House. Henry held this position for almost 25 years.  

The Boston Theater in 1855 shortly after it opened. Ballou’ s Pictorial July 21 1855
The Boston Theater in 1855 shortly after it opened from Ballou’ s Pictorial July 21 1855

After his sudden death on March 24, 1894, the New York Times printed his obituary, stating that “He was well known throughout the country as one of the most generous and efficient men in the theatrical business.”

 

1858 Carte de Visite of Henry McGlenen (from Boston Athenaeum)
1858 card de visite for Henry McGlenen, from Boston Athenaeum

Memorial services held at the Church of The Unity (since demolished) were attended by many Mexican War veterans and civic leaders.  Two of the pallbearers were former Boston Mayor Samuel Green and former Massachusetts governor William Russell.

McGlenen’s sons Edward and Henry wanted to honor their father with a granite sarcophagus-shaped monument similar to a red granite one they had seen at Forest Hills Cemetery. McGlenen’s friends and colleagues in the theater and government world stepped in to pay the cost. Over 200 people contributed. When the final goal of $2,000 (about $65,000 in today’s money) was reached in September 1895, the Globe listed the name of each donor and the amount of their donation. They declared “The popular subscription is the best evidence of the genuine, widespread esteem in which Harry McGlenen was held by all classes of the community.” 

Until the large monument was built the graves of McGlenen and his wife Carolyn, who died on Feb 22, 1895, were marked by two small black granite blocks carved with their names.  Their sloped corner lot was shaded with trees and shrubs which had to be removed when the quarry contractor installed their monument.   Fir trees were then planted around the monument to soften the view.  Now the fir trees are gone and the lot is bare with the exception of eight identical step-stool markers of black granite for McGlenen family members which are set in two rows in front of the monument. 

The McGlenen plot at Mount Hope Cemetery
The McGlenen plot at Mount Hope Cemetery


The Stories of Mount Hope blog features periodic posts on a variety of topics concerning historic Mount Hope Cemetery. This blog is hoping to unearth the hidden stories of Mount Hope Cemetery. Please let us know if there is something you think should be highlighted by emailing storiesfrommounthope@boston.gov

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