Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Elmwood Cemetery

Elmwood Cemetery, in Detroit’s Eastside Historic Cemetery District, is the oldest continuously-operating non-denominational cemetery in Michigan. In 1846, 42 acres of land for a cemetery was purchased for $1,850 from the George Hunt Farm in Hamtramck Township by a group of prominent Detroiters. After multiple additional land purchases, the cemetery now covers 86 acres. In 1850 Temple Beth El purchased a half-acre piece of nearby land for $150. This land was then acquired by Elmwood Cemetery but is still maintained by the temple.

On the western side of the cemetery runs historic Bloody Run Creek. The creek was originally named Parent’s Creek, for early Detroiter Joseph Parent, whose name appears in the records of Ste. Anne’s Church. On July 31, 1763, the creek was renamed Bloody Run following Chief Pontiac’s uprising which resulted in the deaths of British Captain Dalzell and 160 of his men. This portion of the cemetery has been preserved by the Elmwood Cemetery trustees as an historic area with a plaque memorializing that event.

The grounds of the cemetery were redesigned by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1890. His park-like design was inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts and now contains stately groves of more than 1,400 trees, which in 2015 earned Elmwood Cemetery the designation as Detroit’s first certified arboretum. A Gothic Revival chapel was built in 1856 and, following multiple restorations, the chapel is still in use. In 1870, Gordon Lloyd designed a Gothic-inspired gatehouse that was built in 1876. The cemetery is also home to multiple monuments by notable sculptors, including “Flying Geese” by Marshall Fredericks and “Veiled Lady” by Randolph Rogers.

In 1874, the State of Michigan purchased a portion of the Elmwood Cemetery to bury veterans of the Civil War. The graves of 205 Civil War veterans are located there. In 1876, a Fireman’s Lot was dedicated as well, with a monument depicting firefighting equipment.

Among the notable Detroiters buried there are many people who played a political role in the city and state: 29 Detroit mayors including Coleman A. Young, six governors including Lewis Cass, and 11 senators. Other notable Detroiters buried there are Bernhard Stroh, founder of the Stroh Brewery, Fred "Sonic" Smith, guitarist of the Detroit rock band MC5, and radio personality Martha Jean Steinberg.

The State of Michigan designated Elmwood Cemetery as a State Historic Site in 1975.



Firemen's Memorial in Elmwood Cemetery, 1880s

Entrance to Elmwood Cemetery, postcard, 1935

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