riverside cemetery (albany)
Okay, it’s time to talk about Albany and the Santiam Basin. Like everyplace else, the cemeteries of Albany mirror the city, and Riverside is an old pioneer cemetery of 12-15 pretty well packed acres. It’s still being used, but not heavily, partly because there’s no room.A drive through downtown Albany and its core neighborhoods will quickly convince anyone of the town’s illustrious past. “Illustrious” may be gilding the lily a tad, but the town unquestionably had a brighter childhood. The Victoriana lining the streets would make any town jealous; and, were the town more prosperous, it would be the jewel of the valley.

The town, unfortunately, isn’t more prosperous, and the result is that the luster was has worn thin. Maintaining a Victorian downtown can be a blessing and a curse. To have saved a Victorian downtown implies that it’s been saved because no one has seen fit to invest there for quite some while. That’s the curse. The blessing is that the negligence can sometime be put to a profit, witness Jacksonville. Otherwise, one just has a mess of old buildings.

Albany is capital of the Santiam Basin, and its location near the confluence of the Santiam and Willamette Rivers was a reason for its early success. For a while, being a riverboat town on the Willamette meant something, until railroads and highways absorbed the freight. Albany was also an early rail-hub for the valley, which helped propel it. In the end, though, it became the capital of the forgotten part of the Willamette Valley. Consider the towns of the Santiam: Lebanon, Sweet Home, Mill City, Stayton, all lacking in current cachet. How are you going to keep them down on the farm, when Eugene and Portland are so close? It’s an as yet unanswered question.

Riverside Cemetery reflects that picture. This is a good collection of older stones, but two things are immediately noticeable. One, none of the older stones is extravagant; if there was wealth in Albany, it didn’t go into tombstones. Secondly, the stock of new stones is thin. Most new burials are at Willamette Memorial Park, another reflection of the community. The early settlers to the Willamette were, for the most part, a backwoods lot without either sophistication or tolerance. Albany, in particular, was a center for pro-Southern sentiments during the Civil War and has remained a conservative, fundamentalist enclave stubbornly holding on to its myths.

From a cemetery point of view, burial options in such a community are limited. The older core cemeteries are filling up, and the only viable option, Willamette Memorial, isn’t viable for many people. Those folk might want to consider rural pioneer cemeteries.

There are a number of white bronze markers here, with their usually crisp details. In a push to get with the times, the cemetery operators have installed a small, off-the-shelf columbarium; but the cemetery’s best feature is a white columned, brick entrance portico. It’s nonfunctional, but it spices the site up visually.

One plus for Riverside is being situated next to a hospital, which is convenient. Shortens the trip considerably. It’s also near housing, as teenagers were using it as hide-and-seek grounds, when I visited. I did not ask if they used it for anything else. Another plus is that it’s next door to the Albany Masonic Cemetery. A double-feature.


On the north side of the west end of 7th Ave. SW in Albany.
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