The Woodlands Cemetery, located at 40th Street and Woodland Avenue, is currently surveying the community on how to spend a $300,000 grant.
The 54-acre cemetery, which also operates as a public park, received the grant from the William Penn Foundation under the theme of “great public spaces” in August 2013. The organization hopes that the survey will inform the foundation on how the public uses the space.
“We really want to know how people use the space and how to align our mission with preservation of the property,” Woodlands Program and Communications Coordinator Erica Maust said. “But we also want to make it a place people want to be and want to visit and make it a viable space in the middle of a diverse neighborhood.”
The survey received over 300 responses and will be available online through the end of May. After receiving community input, Woodlands will design a master plan, which it will unveil in fall 2014.
Potential changes to the space could include finding new uses for existing buildings, new plans for future tree planting and new ways to keep new greenery within the historic context of the property. Woodlands Executive Director Jessica Baumert added that maybe the most important thing is finding ways to improve entryways for pedestrians, especially with the upcoming construction on the 40th Street trolley station.
While plans from the grant won’t take shape for a few months, Woodlands plans to break ground on another $1.5 million development project this year.
Woodlands is preparing to renovate its cryptoporticus — an underground passageway which runs the length of the front terrace of the cemetery’s mansion. Once construction is complete, Woodlands will begin tours of the passageway.
The Woodlands was founded in 1770 by Andrew Hamilton’s grandson William Hamilton. The younger Hamilton was educated at the College of Philadelphia, which later became Penn. The property has been an operating cemetery since 1840, when a group formed the Woodlands Cemetery Company as a preservation effort and economic movement.
Woodlands leaders hope the changes will help maintain connections to Philadelphia.
“Hopefully it, as we make improvements and more people discover us, [will] become a place people know about,” Baument said. “We want to become part of the cultural fabric of the city.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Woodlands were founded by Alexander Hamilton's grandson, William Hamilton. William Hamilton is the grandson of Andrew Hamilton, a Philadelphia attorney.