There’s some debate as to when Visit a Cemetery Day falls. Some say it’s the last Sunday of October, while others claim that it lands on All Souls Day, which is November 2nd. We won’t take sides, but this year we decided to honor it on the latter. We did so by visiting Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, the second largest cemetery in the country. We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day to visit, and we’re excited to share our photographs with you.
We began our visit to Spring Grove by visiting the Garden Courtyard, across from the Norman Chapel, shown here.
The garden there is planted with roses, as well as other colorful perennial and annual flowers.
The Garden Mausoleum is one of three community mausoleums at Spring Grove, and is located next to the Garden Courtyard.
Spring Grove Cemetery has over 17,000 graves covered blanketed in ivy, a tradition that very popular in historic cemeteries, especially Victorian and rural garden cemeteries. The ivy is meant to symbolize many traits, such as strength, immortality, spiritual death, and rebirth.
Among the more than 1,200 different labeled trees and shrubs stands this 375-400 year old white oak tree.
This is one of several shelter houses built by Elzner & Anderson. It was completed in the late 1800’s and used by visitors for decades when the cemetery was THE place to visit on weekends. The shelter houses are no longer open to the public.
According to Greeting from Cincinnati, the owner of this mausoleum is Samuel Lewis (1771-1842), a seafaring captain in the Atlantic Ocean until 1813, when he moved west to Pittsburgh, Pa. There, he purchased a flatboat which he used to travel down the Ohio to Cincinnati. He purchased land for a farm and raised a family there. When he died in 1842, he was buried at the Methodist Burying Grounds, but was later reburied at Spring Grove Cemetery on October 27, 1846, one month after the cemetery had opened. His son Samuel Lewis II was the first superintendent of common schools in Ohio, and later ran for governor of Ohio 3 times. He lost all three elections.
The Dexter Mausoleum is often mistaken for one of Spring Grove’s three chapels, but is in fact a private mausoleum. Dexter was a English immigrant – a “whiskey baron.” The mausoleum was intended to resemble a Gothic Revival, inspired by the famous Parisian church, Sainte-Chapelle. Its locked lower level houses 12 marble catacombs, where four generations of Dexters reside. Behind the locked door to the top level is a marble-lined chapel measuring 12 feet wide, 30 feet long and 34 feet high. The mausoleum is a registered historic landmark.
The Robinson Mausoleum was built in 1874. The family owned Robinson’s Circus from 1824 to 1916, when they sold it to the American Circus. It was subsequently merged with Ringling Brothers. The basic form of the structure is a Gothic Revival cruciform, while the heavily rusticated blue limestone walls reflect a Romanesque influence.
Words cannot express the sense of tranquility that the grounds of Spring Grove manage to encompass one with. From the array of amazing architecture and plant life, to row upon row of varied headstones, obelisks, and statues, the space created here has long bridged a connection between the living and the dead that provides a linkage to the past.
Planning Your Own Cemetery Visit
If you feel inspired to get out and visit a cemetery yourself, we recommend that you gather information on a website like FindaGrave.com or the cemetery’s own site. Many larger cemeteries offer maps and may discuss points of interest on their website. If you don’t have any particular areas that you’re planning to visit while you’re there, simply take some time to wonder around and take in the peaceful scenery. Feel free to take pictures of headstones or monuments that you find particularly beautiful, or partake in gravestone rubbing, by rubbing charcoal, wax, graphite, or even crayon over paper placed upon the gravestone. If you visit a cemetery where an ancestor is buried, you can even take the time to clean up their gravesite. However you chose to plan your visit, you’re certain to leave with a revived sense of clarity and purpose.