More than 2,500 of the city's pioneers, leaders and citizens are buried in the Dunedin Municipal Cemetery. But after 130 years, the cemetery is running out of space.
Only 14 grave sites and 36 spots for cremated remains (each of which accommodates up to six people) are left.
When a resident erected a memorial bench that will eventually hold the remains of two people beneath its seat earlier this year, city staff saw a route to expanding the cemetery's capacity. The benches can be erected on ground where tree roots and other obstacles prevent digging a grave.
Vince Gizzi, Dunedin's parks and recreation director, brought the idea of selling memorial bench sites to city commissioners on Nov. 20 and they quickly agreed. The city will offer bench sites to residents, their immediate family and former Dunedin elected or charter officials.
For $1,488, residents can buy a space for a bench at the municipal cemetery that will hold two cremated remains. By comparison, grave sites go for $2,756, niches for two cremated remains cost $1,488 and releasing ashes in the Scatter Garden costs $220.
The memorial bench itself will cost another $2,000 to $2,500, Gizzi said, depending on which one the family selects.
Dunedin's cemetery at 2400 Keene Road is particularly beautiful. The 7.75 acres hold roaming peacocks, the twisting branches of live oaks, and headstones with 19th century embellishments and sentiments.
"Some people just go out there to relax, watch the peacocks and walk the grounds," Gizzi said.
Stop to read the headstones, and you will find Dunedin's pioneering families, mayors, city managers, teachers, doctors.
Burials started there in the 1870s, said Vinnie Luisi, Dunedin Historical Society and Museum executive director. The cemetery was established in 1876 at the site of the original Andrews Memorial Church. The church was dismantled when a new Presbyterian church was built at another location. Then in about 1927, the city took over the cemetery.
George L. Jones, who opened a general store and trading post in 1870, is buried there. He put up a sign that said "Jonesboro" at his store and hoped it would remain the city's name. But merchants John O. Douglas and James Somerville arrived from Edinburgh, Scotland, and disagreed. They named the post office and the town Dunedin, the Gaelic translation of their hometown.
Somerville's tombstone under a palm frond is cracked through the middle but somehow holds together. Douglas is not in the cemetery.
Luisi said you can find L.B. Skinner, Dunedin's first mayor. His son Bronson C. Skinner, who built an orange juice concentrate plant, is there, too.
Other early family names with members in the cemetery include Marston and Daniels. Luisi said the Marstons were home builders and the Daniels family started the first dairy.
Dr. John Andrews Mease, who Luisi said started with a 10-bed sanitarium about where the Bon Appetit restaurant is today, then opened the first Mease Hospital at another location, is buried there.
Another early mayor, A.J. Grant, is there. He was Dunedin's first appointed town marshal and tax collector. Luisi said he worked to get WPA funds to build Dunedin's first baseball field, and they named it Grant Field.
Luisi has his own plot that he bought from the Nigels family, another prominent, early family with 14 buried there.
In 2006, Barb Kanehl, Dunedin's assistant city clerk, said the city realized it was charging much less than other municipal cemeteries, so it raised the rates significantly.
"It's still a good deal," Luisi said.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.