Monday, April 7, 2014

Tree Shaped Tombstones - A. Ambrosini

Having spent several years now looking for "Tree Shaped Tombstones" I can report that the vast majority leave us with no clue as to the artisans who created them.  I have in fact to date found a grand total of three specimens that are signed with the name of the man who carved them.  One was a magnificent specimen I encountered in New Ulm, Minnesota that had a discrete "A. Ambrosini" hidden on it.



Anthony Ambrosini was from Cercino, Italy.  This was not far from Cararra, a place famous for stone cutting since ancient times.  It is reasonable to assume he grew up in the trade.  He turns up in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1883 working as a stone cutter.  Earlier he had found similar employ in Chicago.

He spent a few years working in partnership with a man named Peterson, but most of the 1880s he worked for others, probably more on building projects than on artistic concerns.

In 1890 he struck out on his own, his new location at 941 Jackson Street being on the grounds of Oakland Cemetery it is reasonable to assume that monuments and headstones were now his main product line.  An ad from this era runs:

ANTHONY AMBROSINI
Granite and Marble Worker
dealer in
FLOWER VASES
HEADSTONES
of all descriptions
MONUMENTS
Delivered to any cemetery in the Northwest

The ad also mentions that he has a branch office "Opposite Calvary Cemetery on Front Street".

Three years later he moved his operation to the newly opened Forest (now Forest Lawn) Cemetery on the north side of St. Paul.  It seems likely that the abundant "trees" and "benches" I encountered there are products of his workshop. Forest Lawn 1Forest Lawn 2Forest Lawn 3.

As best I can tell, none of his stone carving shops has survived.  One would have thought with his background that they would have been substantial, durable stone buildings.  But perhaps less expensive wooden buildings were a more practical option for a humble if talented artisan.

At some point Anthony handed the business down to his son John before moving to California, probably after his wife Augusta passed away in 1917.

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