Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Elmwood Cemetery

Elmwood Cemetery is located in the Eastside Historic Cemetery District in Detroit. It is the oldest, continuously operating non-denominational cemetery in Michigan. The cemetery was originally dedicated in 1846 as a rural cemetery and it covered 42 acres. After multiple purchases of land for expansion, it eventually covered 86 acres.

Between the rolling green hills runs a creek that defines the setting and emphasizes the historical significance of Elmwood Cemetery. The creek was originally named “Parents Creek,” for a gunsmith appearing on the records of St. Anne’s Church. On July 31, 1763, the creek was renamed Bloody Run after Chief Pontiac’s uprising resulted in the deaths of British Captain Dalzell and his men. A plaque memorializes this event and the trustees of Elmwood have preserved this historic section as part of the natural beauty and history of the cemetery.

The grounds of the cemetery were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1890. Its park-like design was inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 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: twenty-nine Detroit mayors (including Coleman A. Young), six governors (including Lewis Cass), and eleven 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.



Firemen's Memorial in Elmwood Cemetery, 1880s

Entrance to Elmwood Cemetery, postcard, 1935

View all items related to Elmwood Cemetery