Holme-Crisp Cemetery flag flies despite storm, vandalism, snakes and poison sumac

Most people attribute Philadelphia’s origins to William Penn. But not everyone realizes it was surveyor Thomas Holme who helped plan the city.

His final resting place is located in the Holme-Crisp Cemetery on Holme Avenue near Convent Avenue.

Last weekend, a flagpole was dedicated to him near Holme’s tombstone — just in time for the 389th observance of his birth. The Holme Circle Civic Association sponsored the dedication, but the flagpole itself was a donation from Grainger Inc.

Just a few months ago, the cemetery did not look the same as it does today. HCCA President Elsie Stevens took matters into her own hands after a tree felled by Hurricane Sandy toppled Holme’s grave.

“Before we could do anything in the cemetery we had to remove the tree,” Stevens explained. “So my husband, myself and our friend gradually chopped up the tree with a chainsaw. But after that we could work on the cemetery.”

But the tree wasn’t the only obstacle.

Stevens found poison sumac was growing around the tree, which further complicated the cleanup. Snakes tend to come up from the wooded area located behind the cemetery. And shrubs that have been placed within the cemetery have been stolen on two occasions.

The cemetery is open to the public, but there are some restrictions. Due to a few instances of vandalism the gates are locked at night. The HCCA has taken action and installed several survelliance cameras throughout the cemetery.

Pa. Rep. John Sabatina, D-174th, presented HCCA with a dedication citation during the ceremony, and now the American, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia flags will fly alternatively at the site.

The next project HCCA is working on is the effort to place neighborhood welcome signs on Holme Circle, where Holme Avenue, Welsh Road and Ashton Road meet.

Shannon Dougherty is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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