Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation

Where Detroit's History Endures

About Us

Historic Remembrance & Memorialization
Steeped in history, Elmwood is the oldest continuously operating non-denominational cemetery in Michigan. Elmwood Cemetery began its history in the Spring of 1846 when some of Detroit’s leading citizens conceived the idea of establishing a cemetery in the suburbs of the city. For the sum of $1,850 they purchased forty-two acres from what was originally the George Hunt Farm in the township of Hamtramck and renamed the property Elmwood Cemetery. In 1849, the cemetery was incorporated by an act of the Michigan Legislature as a non-profit organization and in 1883, an endowment fund was created for the perpetual care of the cemetery and individual lots. Over the years, additional land was purchased from the Hunt Farm and neighboring farm of D.C. Whitwood so that today the cemetery consists of approximately eighty-six acres.

Elmwood became the final resting-place of tycoon and laborer alike. It was the first fully integrated cemetery in the Midwest. A stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Detroit, Elmwood continues to serve the entire community without restrictions based on race or religious beliefs.

Elmwood Cemetery contains the memorials of many famous men and women who have served their country faithfully in times of peace and war. A special lot is designated for those who fought in the Civil War and is one of the first places in the United States given permission to fly the flag continuously as a memorial to those patriots without it being lit at night.

Elmwood’s history is also represented by many distinguished citizens who are memorialized in the park including, W.A. Burt, the inventor of the Equatorial sextant and solar compass and Margaret Mather, the great Shakespearean actress of the nineteenth century. Other notables include governors, mayors, judges, ministers, lawyers, doctors, prominent businessmen and abolitionists. George DeBaptiste, Dr. Joseph Ferguson and Dr. William Lambert all represent the abolitionist movement having worked faithfully for their cause with leaders such as the well-known ex-slave and orator Frederick Douglas. Visit our BIO Archives for our featured Biography  and to read more about the many famous notables who are buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

Other noteworthy persons memorialized at Elmwood include Lewis Cass, Michigan’s Territorial Governor; Douglass Houghton, Michigan’s first State Geologist; Eber Brock Ward, Michigan industrialist and Michigan's first millionaire; and General Philip St. George Cook who led the Mormon Battalion two thousand miles to Los Angeles in 1846, raising the flag at Fort Tucson along the way.

Many other heroes from many wars, dating back to the early fighting with the English and Indians and including veterans of all the wars and fighting since, have found a resting-place at Elmwood. From privates to generals, all ranks and honors are remembered at Elmwood. History books state that Memorial Day, originally designated as Decoration Day, was first celebrated in Detroit in 1869. However, Detroit’s first observance of the holiday actually occurred one year earlier on May 30, 1868 at Elmwood Cemetery. Quickly organized on three days' notice, the simple yet meaningful event is missed by many Historians in their recounting of history. The ceremony took place opposite the entrance with national flags and a stuffed eagle forming the background to the speakers and the Fort Wayne band.

Old World Design
The design of the cemetery, inspired by Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Mass., was created in 1890 when prominent landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, was brought in to enhance the picturesque cemetery and design improvements to the layout. Elmwood’s park-like grounds, are composed of graceful hills and a valley surrounding a calmly flowing stream. Thanks to Olmsted's vision, the cemetery is now graced with large stands of trees and roads that follow the natural slope of the land, blending with the surrounding environment and architecture, creating a haven of peace for the living to enjoy. These stands of trees contributed to Elmwood's arboretum certification attained in 2015. Elmwood Cemetery is proud to be Detroit's first certified arboretum.

Between the rolling green hills and through the valley, runs a creek that defines the setting and emphasizes the historical significance of Elmwood Cemetery. Originally “Parents Creek,” it was named in 1707 for a gunsmith appearing on the records of St. Anne’s Church. On July 31, 1763, in an incident during the Pontiac uprising against the British, the creek was renamed Bloody Run after the Indian massacre of 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.

Enhancing the historic feel of the park are many beautiful buildings designed in an old-world style, including the exquisite chapel built in 1856 of quarried limestone and office building built in 1870. In the late 1900s, after fire destroyed the chapel and several additions were added to the office, both buildings were extensively restored. Take a TOUR of the grounds to see and learn more about the many monuments and buildings that grace Elmwood Cemetery.

The Elmwood community mourns the loss of long-time cemetery Trustee Allen Ledyard who passed away in October, 2014. Click here to view the Resolution of the Trustees of Elmwood Cemetery.

At its December 2018 board meeting, long-time trustee chair, Sandy McMillan passed the gavel to Mike Bernard.  The trustees are thrilled to have Sandy remain on the board.  His guidance has been critical in leading the cemetery through the past thirty years.  New trustee president, J. Michael Bernard has been a constant on the board of trustees for over 20 years.  Mike is an attorney with Dykema here in Detroit.  His practice focuses primarily on business counseling and general corporate and securities matters, with an emphasis on mergers and acquisitions, financing transactions, corporate formation matters, public company securities compliance and corporate governance.  Mike also serves on the board or committees of many community groups.   

The Officers and Trustees of Elmwood Cemetery:
Mr. J. Michael Bernard, Esq.
Mr. John S. Snyder
Vice President and Treasurer
Ms. Terry Peck Book
Mr. James Deutchman
Ms. Eileen McCarthy
Mr. Francis W. McMillan, II

Cemetery Grounds Access
September 16 – April 30
8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Daily
May 1 – September 15
7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Daily

Office Hours
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Weekdays
9:00 a.m. – noon Saturdays
This office is closed on Sundays. 

Contact Us

1200 Elmwood Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48207
Phone: 313-567-3453
Fax: 313-567-8861


 Elmwood Cemetery and Historic Elmwood Foundation Staff

Please contact our staff whenever the need arises by calling (313) 567-3453.

Elmwood-Mike-Pic-013Michael Shukwit
Director of Operations
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Michael Shukwit, Elmwood Cemetery Director of Operations, has over 30 years of experience in the cemetery business. Mr. Shukwit is responsible for managing operations at Elmwood Cemetery - Detroit. Mr. Shukwit manages the grounds crew and all outside operations, including buildings, capital improvements, grounds, interments, memorial/monument cleaning, arboretum, gardens, and working with the Historic Elmwood Foundation on restoration, education, and community events programming.







elmwood-1208-SmithBonita Smith
Director of Administration
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Bonita Smith, Director of Administration, also has over 25 years of experience in the industry. Her responsibilities include managing the overall administration of Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit. This includes record keeping, banking, and accounts receivable and payable. In addition, Ms. Smith provides guidance to customers on lot selection, mausoleums, and all other burial matters. She is the primary liaison to area funeral homes on interment matters.








Franqui R KingFranqui R. King
Memorial Advisor
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Franqui R. King, Memorial Advisor, joined Elmwood in 2019 and has over 20 years customer service and sales experience, including his recent position with an area funeral home. Mr. King serves as Memorial Advisor to Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit. He counsels customers on all burial matters including selection of lots and niches, memorials, and tributes as well as preplanning needs. He works with the staffs of area funeral homes on interment matters.  








Kimalyn TaylorKimalyn Taylor
Administrative Assistant
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Kimalyn Taylor joined Elmwood in 2015 and has over 25 years customer service experience. Ms. Taylor assists Ms. Smith with administrative matters and Mr. King and Ms. Smith serving Elmwood's families with regard to interment affairs and services. Ms. Taylor helps guide families to gravesites and handles floral arrangements and tributes. 








014 14-CapuanoJoan Frear Capuano
Executive Director Historic Elmwood Foundation
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Joan Frear Capuano, Historic Elmwood Foundation Executive Director, has been with the Foundation since 2006. She directs all Foundation projects, community outreach, tours, educational materials, events and programs. In addition, she is responsible for communications, grant seeking, and the Annual Fund Drive. In 2013, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Mrs. Capuano to the Michigan Historical Commission where she served two terms charged with safeguarding and promoting Michigan’s great history. The Governor said “preserving and promoting our state’s outstanding historical significance is of great importance, and I am confident that Joan will effectively serve in this role.”







Lawrence F. Sloane
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Mr. Sloane serves as the Director for the Trustees of Elmwood Cemetery in a consulting capacity.  The Trustees first retained Mr. Sloane to assist them in 1993.  Since 2004, Mr. Sloane has served as the Director.  The L. F. Sloane Consulting Group, Inc. has served principally historic and religious cemeteries since 1981 and has worked for and now serves numerous clients in Michigan.

Cheri Arcome
Director of Marketing
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Ms. Arcome joined Elmwood Cemetery in 2014. Cheri brings a wealth of experience in the operation, administration and finance of cemeteries to Elmwood. She most recently was the Executive Director of the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Detroit. In this role, she managed five cemeteries, performing 1800 services each year with over 50 employees. Cheri works with the staff of Elmwood Cemetery, and directs operations at Birchwood Cemetery.