Showing posts with label Spring Grove cemetery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spring Grove cemetery. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cemeteries Worth the Visit - Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Cemetery of Spring Grove

Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio is the second largest cemetery in the United States.  It was originally known as the Cemetery of Spring Grove, and was founded in 1845 by the Cincinnati Horticultural Society as a not-for-profit cemetery.  The original 166 hilly acres were purchased for $16,000 and dedicated that August.  The first burial occurred on September 1, 1845.

Cincinnati Horticultural Society
Horticultural Society
The Cincinnati Horticultural Society used the cemetery grounds as an arboretum to study plants.  In 1850, over 4,300 ornamental plants had been planted throughout the grounds, and the nursery contained another 11,000 plants.

Albert Stauch
Then in 1855, Albert Stauch became superintendent of the cemetery.  During the next ten years he planted over 200 varieties of trees, choosing locations where "the beauty of form, color, and size shall be most effective."  His interest in using native plants and trees, along with his desire to create a natural landscape, led him to reroute roadways to follow the natural contours of the land. 

Stauch also placed lakes, bridges and islands throughout the cemetery grounds. The concept of a “Lawn Cemetery,” grassy expanses with native plants, trees, lakes and meandering paths was unique, but caught on quickly.  It wasn’t long before the majority of U.S. cemeteries adapted the concept of the “Lawn Cemetery”. 

By the 1860’s, the cemetery had the most diverse collection of trees in the country, except for New York’s Central Park. Today, Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is home to over 1,200 species of trees, plants and shrubs.  Fifteen lakes, a cascading waterfall, and several footbridges still evoke Stauch’s original Lawn Cemetery design.

Norman Chapel
The Norman Chapel, located just inside the main gates, was designed in the Romanesque Revival, or Norman style.  Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford designed it in 1879.  It is constructed of limestone from Bedford, Indiana, “Limestone Capital of the World,” and guarded by various gargoyles.

Inside Chapel
The Ascension of Christ
Inside, the chapel offers a breath-taking venue with its carved wooden beams, arches and limestone pillars. Black Belgium marble paves the floor.  Bas-relief bronze doors are located on each side of the entrance to the sanctuary. The large stained glass widow was designed by Cincinnati resident Thomas S. Noble and features Christ’s Ascension into Heaven.

The chapel has also acted as a jail.  In the basement, a holding cell was created during the late 1800’s for carriage drivers traveling too fast through the cemetery.  Drivers were arrested, put in the jail cell and held overnight.  When automobiles were allowed in the cemetery in 1911, the jail cell was again put into use to deter speeding through the grounds.  The cell is now used for storage.

$10,000 Bill
Salmon Chase
Twenty-five Cincinnati majors are buried here, along with many well-known politicians, businessmen, authors and artists.  But interestingly enough there are no presidents buried at Spring Grove.  There are ten governors from Ohio, Kentucky and Arizona here.  The most famous governor was Salmon P. Chase. Chase served as Governor of Ohio from 1856 – 1860.  He also served as an Ohio Senator, Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln, and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Chase’s picture appears on the $10,000 bill.  He was also instrumental in the development of Spring Grove.

Fleischman Mausoleum
McAlpin Monument
Businessmen buried here whose names are now household words include Bernard Kroger, founder of the Kroger Grocery stores. William Procter and James Gamble who created Proctor and Gamble Corporation, manufacturer of consumer goods. Charles Fleischman of Fleischman Yeast Company which became the worlds largest yeast producer and second largest producer of vinegar.  And George McAlpin of the McAlpin’s Department Stores.

Alexander McGuffy Marker
Andrew Erkenbrecher Monument
Other notables include Alexander McGuffy, who created the Electric Speller and co-wrote the McGuffy Readers, used in grade schools across the country.  And Andrew Erkenbrecher, founder of the Cincinnati Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, opening in 1875.

Spring Grove is also the resting place of hundreds of soldiers, dating from the Revolutionary War to today. Eight Congressional Medal of Honor recipients are buried here.  There are thirty-three Revolutionary Soldiers interred here.  Forty Civil War soldiers of which thirty-four are Union Generals, including Major General Joseph Hooker.  Hooker led the Union attack at the Battle of Antietam, but then suffered a horrible defeat at the hands of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.

Cedar of Lebannon
In 1987, the cemetery name was changed from the Cemetery of Spring Grove to Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum to note the extensive collection of native and exotic plants that cover the grounds.  The cemetery is now comprised of 733 acres, of which on 400 acres are currently used and landscaped.  The remaining 333 acres will be developed as needed, guaranteeing the community a working cemetery for hundreds of years.  Over 44 miles of paved roadways wind through the present day cemetery.

Grave of Johnny Appleseed
Spring Grove was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. It is only one of five cemeteries in the country to hold this designation. This is in honor of its exceptional manner in illustrating the heritage and culture of the United States.  Spring Grove is the largest non-profit cemetery in the country.

Weddings are often held at Spring Grove.  The Norman Chapel can seat 200 and is available for ceremonies, as is the Garden Courtyard, which can seat up to 1,000.  The cemetery is also available for wedding photography.  Visit their web site for guidelines and rates.

Tram Tours
Spring Grove offers several tours and events throughout the year. Public tours are offered from May through October.  Theses include public tram tours, weekend walkabouts and twilight tours. The cemetery also offers private group tours, and tours for school children.  Several special events are held throughout the year including the Annual Summer Sounds of Spring Grove Concert held in July, the Moonlight Tour held in August, and the Annual Lantern Lighting Ceremony held each September.  Self guided walking tours featuring art, architecture, and history can be conducted with the aid of maps available at the cemetery office.  Each year over 13,000 people attend these special events and tours.

Spring Grove is located at 4521 Spring Grove Avenue in Cincinnati.  The cemetery grounds are open from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. each day.  The phone number is (513) 681-7526.  Visit their web page at or on Facebook at Spring Grove welcomes genealogy research on their web site.

Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is well worth the visit!  Plan on spending at least half a day if not the full day.  And if you can go when a tour or event is offered, all the better.  Whether you’re a photographer, artist, historian, Tombstone Tourist, gardener, or just love a park-like setting, Spring Grove has something for you!  So go – experience, and enjoy!!

~ Joy

Friday, June 10, 2011

Going to the Chapel…Cemetery Weddings

It’s June, the season of weddings.  So I decided to see what people thought of the idea of  ‘tying the knot’ in a cemetery.  It turns out this may be a trend of the future!

According to The Mortician Journal, out of a list of ‘25 Funeral Trends for 2011’, #8 is “More and more funeral facilities will be used for other services (like weddings and birthdays.)  Funeral homes and cemeteries are now starting to utilize their chapels and grounds for ‘celebration events.’

Community Life Center
In Indianapolis, Indiana, Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers built a ten-million dollar structure they call the ‘Community Life Center’  Opened in 2009, the Center was the site of ten weddings that year.  It now holds several events each month and has over 100 weddings booked for this year and into 2012.

Research indicates that more and more couples, within the past five-year, have entertained the idea of, if not actually been married in cemetery and funeral home chapels.  This interest has caught the attention of cemetery superintendents, sextons and funeral home directors, who are now viewing their sites as places to celebrate life as well as mourn the dead.

Wedding Carriage
Events being held in cemeteries have included birthday celebrations, anniversary parties, seasonal musical events, historic grounds tours, proms, holiday gatherings, banquets, family reunions, business conferences and weddings.  According to a survey conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association,, almost 10% of over 600 funeral homes in the U.S. have or are offering an event center for use by the community.  Some funeral homes also offer their expertise in planning a wedding.  And that does make sense.  What a funeral home director can accomplish in three days for a funeral, they can also achieve for a wedding, in record time.  In this new market, wedding planners are just beginning to take consider this a viable wedding option.

Norman Chapel
Inside of chapel
The appeal of a cemetery as a wedding location is easy to understand.   According to Leigh Hensley, Executive Assistant at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretun in Cincinnati, Ohio, there are many reasons for couples to choose to be married in a cemetery.  For Spring Grove, it may be because of the historic nature and beauty of the grounds, or the gorgeous Norman Chapel, which is non-denominational.  And many times the location has to do with family members being interred there and the sentimental act of including those who have gone ahead.  Hensley said that Spring Grove hosts around 45 wedding per year in the Norman Chapel or their rose garden.

Cemeteries weddings are also considered to be more ‘green,’ or environmentally friendly, than most regular wedding and reception sites.    And, as an added bonus, the price is usually much less than traditional wedding venues. 

But we are not the first to be drawn to cemeteries to celebrate our life events.  In the mid-1800’s, people treated the cemetery as if it were a park, picnicking, enjoying boat rides on the lake, or taking a quiet carriage ride through the grounds.

During WW II, the Forest Lawn Cemeteries in California buried during the day and married during the night.  Today the cemetery group has eight chapels that are used for funerals and weddings.

And the interest in cemetery weddings is not just occurring in the U.S.  Cemetery weddings have been reported this year in many parts of the world including Indonesia and China.  The main reasons given overseas for having a cemetery wedding are the same - the beauty of the location, the meaningfulness of being married near ancestors, and the lower cost.

I asked readers of A Grave Interest, friends on my personal page, and members of A Graveyard Rabbit and Cemetery Explorers, all on Facebook, if any of them had been married in a cemetery and how they felt about cemetery weddings.  The overwhelming response was very positive.  While it was a novel idea to some, almost all felt it would be a very peaceful and beautiful location for a wedding.  Here are some of the replies:

Katie Killian wrote: "I would do it in a heartbeat if there was one that I found pretty enough or interesting enough to do it in. There aren't any in Indy that I have any ties to, though."

Steve Kalland thought it was a “Great idea.”

Save A Grave stated:  “I think it’s a cool place to have a wedding.  You can find some great places that would be beautiful for a wedding.  I don’t know anyone who has done it.”

Stewart Dashwood replied: “Sounds interesting!  I like the idea but my fiancĂ© (despite loving cemeteries) isn’t quite sold on it.”

Tricia Neal responded: “Had some pictures taken after the wedding with the old church cemetery in the background, but didn’t actually get married IN the cemetery!  (And the fact that the cemetery was in the background in the pictures was unintentional, although if I’d thought about it at the time, I would have made sure it happened that way!)

Cheryl Mason wrote: “A cemetery in Savannah…under oaks draped in Spanish moss….”

Only a few people were somewhat wary of the idea –

Allison Butt commented that she didn’t “know of anyone doing it.  I don’t think I like the idea, although the setting would be peaceful!”

Beverly Ross Nance replied: “Hmmm, no.  But my family used to picnic in them...”

Thanks to everyone who replied!  So what do you think?  Would you get married, or renew your vows in a cemetery?  I definitely would!  But then, how would you decide, between all of the beautiful cemeteries and chapel out there, which one?  Something to ponder during the next wedding you attend.

~ Joy

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lawn Cemeteries

The third type of gravescape in the U.S. is the lawn cemetery.  (The first two being graveyards and rural cemeteries, which we discussed last week.) The lawn cemetery, or modern cemetery as it is also known, gained favor around the end of the Civil War.

Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana
As the name suggests, a lawn cemetery is covered with grass, with small tombstones and markers used to designate burial plots instead of large monuments and statues.  This is thought to present a more solemn and aesthetic visual appeal of the grounds to visitors, and to create a cemetery that is much easier for the groundskeepers to maintain. 

Adolph Strauch has been called the  ‘father of the lawn cemetery’ because of his work on Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Strauch was a well-known landscape artist of the nineteenth century who designed many parks in Cincinnati and Chicago.  He assisted in recreating Spring Grove Cemetery and Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery into modern lawn cemeteries by reducing the spate of monuments and statues found there, and by including lakes and trees on the grounds.

Stone railing separating family plot from cemetery
But this pleasing appearance of expansive landscapes does come with some drawbacks.  The disadvantages of the lawn cemetery includes the fact that cemetery authorities may restrict or forbid plot owners from altering the gravesite with plants, flowers or railings.  They may limit the size and/or shape of the stone.   And they may also refuse to allow any flowers or decorations to be used at a grave, thereby creating that uniform appearance most lawn cemeteries have.

Advantages of the lawn cemetery includes the creation of pleasant, approachable landscapes, the absence of pretentious monuments used to express a family’s social station in life, and the economy of allowing cemetery authorities to use and maintain the land in the most efficient manner, therefore reducing the cost of the plots themselves.  With these approaches, lawn cemeteries found a way to set themselves apart from the elements associated with graveyards and rural cemeteries.

Monument at Oak Ridge in Springfield, IL
They are the status quo of gravescapes used in the U.S. today. But while there is much to recommend them, lawn cemeteries still lack a certain sentimental appeal that attracts those of us searching for those qualities of nostalgia, melancholy and romantic sensibility in our cemeteries.

 ~ Joy