Elmwood Cemetery Celebrates Arbor Day
35 fourth and fifth graders from Friends School Detroit participated in an Arbor Day Celebration on April 25 at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit. At 10:00 a.m., the children participated in the planting of three concolor fir trees, learned about the importance of trees in our environment, and toured the cemetery grounds. The children each received a concolor fir tree seedling, and planting and care guidelines, to take home and plant.
“We at Elmwood are committed to the conservation and careful management of our tree inventory. We are proud to have over seventy species throughout our eighty-five acres. Last year, our Board chose the reforestation of the Cemetery as one of our key projects. The donations received from the Elmwood Community and a mini-grant from the State of Michigan made this Arbor Day celebration possible. We believe it is important to share with the children our awareness of the importance of nature and how trees positively impact the environment,” commented Joan Capuano, Executive Director of the Historic Elmwood Foundation. “Here we are in the middle of Detroit, with eighty-five acres of rolling hills, green grass and majestic trees. This is truly a haven of nature that we are pleased to share with our visitors and families.”
Friends’ student and Elmwood Grounds Crew at concolor fir tree.
Elmwood Cemetery Trustee, John S. Snyder, pictured with Friends’ students next to the tree they helped plant.
Friends’ students touching the soft marble of the Waterman monument during their hands-on tour of the Cemetery grounds. The monument, “Veiled Lady”, weighs 20 tons.
Memorial Advisor, Ciara Green-Lowe, distributing concolor fir tree seedlings to the children as a parting gift from the Elmwood community.
October 28, Tabloid Tour Were you there?
Observance at Elmwood Cemetery
On November 11, the 23rd annual Veterans'
Day Ceremony was held at Elmwood Cemetery. Hundreds
attended including ROTC cadets from 26 area high schools.
Mrs. Beulah Hamilton, Detroit Historic Sites Committee,
organized the celebration which included a Frederick
Douglas impersonator, a soloist who sang a very moving
hymn, and the 102nd Civil War Colored Troop re-enactment group which provided
a gun salute as a member of Detroit's Southeastern High
School band played taps. All veterans in attendance
were called forward and were given a rose. Roses were
placed on the tombs of all members of the 102nd and
Native American troops. Three wreaths were presented
to honor the 102nd Civil War Colored Troops, Native
American Troops and all war Veterans. A wreath was
later placed at Coleman Young's, a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, resting place. A representative
of the Detroit mayor's office presented Mrs. Hamilton with
a recognition certificate for her dedication in honoring our veterans.
Day Observance at Elmwood Cemetery
This past Memorial Day, Elmwood Cemetery was honored to
host two memorial services honoring those who served
on behalf of others.
Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) held their annual
service at 10:00 at the Civil War section of Elmwood Cemetery.
Flags were placed on all resting places and members
of the distinguished SAR spoke in remembrance of those
who fought on behalf of our country.
Detroit Firemen's Fund held its annual Firemen's
Parade. The parade began at 9:00 a.m. at the Lafayette
fire station where the firemen's band, honor guard,
over 250 firefighters and friends, and fire engines
paraded down Lafayette to Elmwood. They passed under a
large American flag suspended from two fire engine
ladders, and through the grounds to the Firemen's
section. Wreaths were placed in the Firemen's section,
and this year's deceased were announced and tolled
in. Taps closed the moving ceremony.
Celebrates its Second Annual Donor Reception.
Features 160TH Anniversary Project: Chapel
Contributors to the Historic Elmwood
Foundation were treated to an old-fashioned
afternoon on the lawn overlooking Elmwood Cemetery’s
pond on September 20, a late summer day with
more than a hint of autumn in the air. The
60 guests were greeted and thanked by Elmwood’s
Board of Trustees President Francis W. “Sandy”
McMillan II and Foundation Board President
Terry Peck Book, who noted that $25,000 --
a third of the goal for this year’s
major project, the chapel restoration -- has
been reached to date.
The Norman Gothic Revival chapel, built of
local limestone and timber, is now just ten
years younger than the cemetery itself, and
an estimated $75,000 is needed to provide
it with a new roof, new interior venting and
a fresh coat of paint, inside and out. The
Chapel plays an increasingly important role
in the life of the surrounding community,
as a center for concerts, educational programs,
lectures, memorial programs and weddings.
At the two-hour reception, which began at
4 pm, the guests also received updates on
other Foundation projects, which included
new, Victorian-style benches placed throughout
the grounds, and new native plantings near
the historical marker across from the Gatehouse.
The benches were the result of a $10,000 donation
from the Mary Thompson Foundation. The landscaping
project was made possible by a donation from
the Memorial Fund of The Garden Club of Michigan.
Before the reception, Joseph Malburg, Elmwood’s
Director of Operations, conducted a tour of the grounds, not only highlighting
some of the Cemetery’s more notorious
headline newsmakers of the past 160 years,
but also explaining the historical and personal
meanings behind many of the sculpted images,
which might appear simply as design elements
to the casual observer.
The Historic Elmwood Foundation was established
in 2005 in order to preserve and promote the
heritage and beauty of Elmwood Cemetery, and
to help future generations to experience and
understand the historical significance of
those who played a part in shaping Detroit.
The Foundation welcomes community participation,
with annual memberships on many levels, a
volunteer program and donations for specific
beautification and restoration projects.
Victorian-style Landscaping Adds Historic Appeal
to Detroit’s 160-year-old Elmwood Cemetery
The eighty-six acre Elmwood Cemetery has always
been graced by majestic groves of trees and lush
vegetation that take advantage of the natural beauty
and history of the land.
It’s a shaded woodland, home to Chinese and
ring-necked pheasants, scurrying black squirrels
and a springtime family of ducklings. A rolling
landscape studded with a wide and unique array of
trees and natural flora. There is a stream which
calmly flows through green hills and valley. The
historic gardens are serene and peaceful.
During the nation’s bicentennial, the state
of Michigan erected an historic marker adjacent
to the Gatehouse of Elmwood Cemetery, and today
a new landscape design, adding a sense of Victorian
ambience, surrounds it. The new design consists
of all native plantings, with the dominant element
being a multiple-stem paper bark maple, with cinnamon
brown bark and russet-red fall color. The tree is
surrounded by chartreuse Sum & Substance Hosta
fronted by low-growing, drought resistant pink-blooming
geraniums. The area is completed by purple-flowering
lily turf, with a touch of evergreen provided by
dwarf Ward Yew.
The project was designed by Landscape Architect
Candace Sweeny, working with Cyndie Baubie Gullickson,
Vice President of the Historic Elmwood Foundation.
According to Ms Gullickson, the aim of the Foundation’s
first landscaping project was to “satisfy
two of the foundation’s goals – enhancing
Elmwood’s natural beauty, and maintaining
the historical significance of the cemetery, which
was originally patterned after Mt. Auburn Cemetery
in Cambridge, Massachusetts as designed by Dr. Jacob Bigelow.”
Bigelow, New England’s foremost botanist of
the era, took his inspiration from western Europe’s
first ornamental cemetery, Pere Lachaise in Paris.
The project was made possible by a generous donation
from the Memorial Fund of The Garden Club of Michigan.
Anna Warren, Garden Club President, said that the
donation helps to further three goals of that organization
– to “enhance the quality of life through
the beautification of the environment, to help preserve
the historic garden designs that began flourishing
in cemeteries in the mid 1800s, and to commemorate
the lives of members and their families who are
interred at Elmwood Cemetery.”
The historic marker, erected by the state of Michigan
on Robert Bradby Drive, reads:
In 1846 when this was a farm on the outskirts of
Detroit, a group of gentlemen formed a corporation
and purchased the land for use as a public cemetery.
The trustees patterned the grounds after Mount Auburn
Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and utilized
the ideas of famous landscape architect Frederick
Law Olmsted. Parent’s Creek, renamed Bloody
Run after the battle fought between Pontiac and
the British in 1763, serves as the focus in the
informal country garden landscape. Albert and Octavius
Jordon designed the handsome Gothic Revival Chapel,
which opened for services in 1856. The chapel’s
limestone walls blend into the natural ravine and
tree-lined paths. Famous people buried here include
General Russell Alger, geologist Douglass Houghton,
and Territorial Governor Lewis Cass.
The Historic Elmwood Foundation was established
in 2005 in order to preserve and promote the heritage
and beauty of Elmwood Cemetery, and to help future
generations to experience and understand the historical
significance of those who played a part in shaping
Detroit. The Foundation welcomes community participation,
with annual memberships on many levels, a volunteer
program and donations for specific beautification
and restoration projects.
Benches at Elmwood Cemetery will offer a rest stop for
thousands of visitors each year.
After Detroit resident Mary Thompson was buried at Elmwood
Cemetery, her will established the Mary Thompson Foundation
dedicated to the care of the aging and infirmed.
Now, a $10,000 donation from that foundation has been
given to the Historic Elmwood Foundation to provide
ten benches to be placed throughout Elmwood Cemetery.
Based on a design by Robert Moses for the 1939 World’s
Fair, the traditionally styled, iron framework benches
with wooden backs and seats and ornamental arms are
a major enhancement of the Cemetery during its 160th
anniversary celebration this year.
“Offering beautiful views of the landscape design,
the benches will provide relatives and friends with
opportunities for quiet contemplation and fond remembrances,”
said Terry Peck Book, President of The Historic Elmwood
Foundation. “The benches are a fitting tribute
to Mary Thompson and her husband, whose final resting
place is Elmwood.” The benches will also offer comfort and convenience
to the thousands of visitors who enjoy the serenity
of nature and the many tours, special events and historical
tributes held at Elmwood Cemetery each year.
The benches’ locations take advantage of the natural
and man-made vistas throughout Elmwood – in the
valley by the cemetery’s willow trees, on the
main drive with a view of the pond and bridge, near
the Norman Gothic Revival chapel, and other convenient
Each bench is surrounded by antique paving brick
and bears a plaque acknowledging the generosity
of the Thompson Foundation. Headquartered in Detroit,
the primary aim of the Mary Thompson Foundation is to
assist the frail and elderly in Michigan. Its fields
of interest include centers and services for the aging,
geriatrics, and nursing home and convalescent facilities.
The Thompson Foundation is also a patron of the Historic
The Historic Elmwood Foundation was established in 2005
to preserve and promote the heritage and beauty of Elmwood
Cemetery, and to help future generations to experience
and understand the historical significance of those
who played a part in shaping Detroit. The Foundation
welcomes community participation, with annual memberships
on many levels, a volunteer program and donations for
specific beautification and restoration projects.
FROM THE CRYPTS:
Digging up the dirt on Detroit’s past
Elmwood Cemetery tour unearths stories of city’s
November 3, 2005
BY EVELYN ASCHENBRENNER
FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER
Visitors walk through Elmwood Cemetery on an annual
tour that features tombstones and tales of famous Detroiters.
Page 4. (ELAINE LOK/Special to the Free Press)
As Detroit’s second-oldest cemetery, Elmwood has
become keeper of some of the city’s most interesting
stories. And for the past 12 years, its annual tour
has revealed some of its most colorful links to Detroit’s
past. “It’s a historical tour of people,
of the landscape, of the cemetery and the styles of
monuments,” said Joe Malburg, the director of
operations at Elmwood. “It’s not like other
historical tours,” he said. “I tell the
good and the bad, and I tell a story,” said Malburg,
47, of Warren, who has guided the tour since it started
Dozens of famous Detroiters are buried in the cemetery,
which opened on the city’s east side in 1846,
and Malburg takes pride in knowing many of their stories.
“I dig up the dirt and unearth the skeletons,”
he said. Malburg said he also takes pride in the fact
that the tour offers visitors a friendly atmosphere
in which they can learn about people who helped shape
Detroit’s history. “Cemeteries are one of
those subjects that no one has the courage to ask about,”
said Malburg. “Since the tour is informal, it
gives people a chance to ask questions they might not
normally feel comfortable asking.” Fortified with
Halloween candy handed out from a 1934 LaSalle hearse,
the 90 participants on Sunday’s walking tour heard
stories whose subjects ranged from Detroit’s founders
to the relatively unknown.
Some of the stories are touching; others, just strange.
Take, for instance, the case of the cursed tombstone.
The marker on Nathaniel Hickok’s grave reads,
in part, “Blest be he that spares these stones,
and curst be he that moves my bones.” Hickok was
originally buried in a cemetery near present-day Greektown,
but all the graves at that site were reinterred at Elmwood.
None of the workers wanted to move Hickok’s grave,
but the stone was eventually moved by an immigrant worker
who did not read English. Hickok died of cholera --
but the fate of the immigrant is unknown, said Malburg.
One marker, that of Henry Clitz, is unique in that it
has a date of birth, but no date of death. Clitz, an
Army general, disappeared near Niagara Falls in 1881,
and his body was never recovered. Sam Thompson, who
played baseball for the Detroit Tigers at the time of
Ty Cobb, asked that his stats be placed on his grave
marker. Many of the markers are much more solemn, such
as that of Jacob M. Howard, a U.S. senator who was one
of the signers of the 1865 anti-slavery amendment. Howard’s
grave is marked with an obelisk. But unlike many of
the other towering, Egyptian-inspired monuments that
dot the Elmwood landscape, Howard’s is broken
halfway up -- to symbolize a life’s work cut short.
He died in 1871.
Folks whose final resting places are on Elmwood Street
include prominent politicians and influential businessmen,
musicians, soldiers and freed slaves. One of those prominent
Detroiters is Joseph Campau, for whom the street is
named. Also buried at Elmwood are Lewis Cass, the only
Detroiter to run for president, and former Mayor Coleman
Young, as well as James Vernor, creator of Vernor’s
Ginger Ale, and Bernhard Stroh, the founder of Stroh’s
Brewery. The graves of Sunny Wilson, known as the Mayor
of Hastings Street, and Fred (Sonic) Smith, who played
in the musical group MC5, can also be found there. “I’ve
always meant to come to this, because it’s part
of our family history,” said Gretchen Thams, 77,
of Auburn Hills, who said she has cousins buried in
nearby Temple Beth El cemetery.
While Elmwood is a treasure trove of carved marble statues,
ornate mausoleums and sarcophagi, part of its charm
lies in its steep hills and valleys. “It’s
a beautiful cemetery,” said Diane Hassig, 59,
of Grosse Pointe Woods, who said she first visited Elmwood
when she was in kindergarten. “What I like is
the original lay of the land.” Proceeds from the
tour benefit Hostelling International, a group that
supports economic traveling and youth hostels. The tour
enables the group to hold educational workshops about
topics such as safe travel abroad.
Posted by permission of the Detroit Free Press.
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