Five of Detroit’s most interesting cemeteries

Exploring Detroit's Cemeteries

Oct 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

There's a point in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye where Holden Caulfield says this about cemeteries: "I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddamn cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody."

OK, so Caulfield's character, and likely Salinger, too, didn't dig the thought of cemeteries. But cemeteries can be some of the most beautiful places to visit in a city. Not all happen to be dreary, spooky spots. Interested in learning more? Preservation Detroit offers cemetery tours each year, offering a chance to learn intimate details of a handful of the city's cemeteries. In the meantime, here's some details on five of Detroit's must-see spots.

Mt. Elliott Cemetery | Opened in 1841, Mt. Elliott was named after judge and architect Robert Elliott, who died during a construction accident just two weeks after the property was dedicated, according to the Mt. Elliott Cemetery Association. The 65-acre cemetery serves as the resting place for former Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a bevy of French and Irish settlers, and a number of soldiers who fought in wars dating back to the American Revolution.

1701 Mt. Elliott St.; 313-567-0048; visiting hours: 7 a.m-6 p.m., daily (summer) 7 a.m.-5 p.m. (winter)

Woodmere Cemetery | Founded in 1867 by, among other Detroit businessmen, former Michigan Gov. John Bagley, Woodmere carries a storied past. The 207-acre landscape features an idyllic landscape, with three garden mausoleums, a chapel mausoleum, and endless opportunities to catch some wildlife roaming about, according to the Woodmere Cemetery's website. Besides Bagley, a number of notable Detroiters are buried in the cemetery: Hamilton Carhartt, founder of Carhartt; James E. Scripps, founder of The Detroit News; as well as members of the Ford family.

9400 W. Fort St.; 313-841-0188; visiting hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat.-Sun.

Woodlawn Cemetery | Music lovers will enjoy Woodlawn; some of Motown's greatest are buried here: the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs, Renaldo Benson, and Lawrence Payton; Gladys Knight & the Pips' Edward Patten, and the Temptations' David Ruffin. According to the cemetery's website, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross have plots reserved. Founded in 1895, Woodlawn carries a large collection of private mausoleums, one of the largest in the country, the cemetery's website says. Besides the Motown stars, Woodlawn also is home to Edsel Ford, Rosa Parks, and former Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree.

19975 Woodward Ave.; 313-368-0010; visiting hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat.-Sun.

Elmwood Cemetery | Prominent architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who had a hand in designing Belle Isle and New York City's Central Park, played a role in developing the cemetery's landscape still in place today, according to the Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation. "Thanks to his work, Elmwood is now graced by majestic groves of trees and lush vegetation that takes advantage of natural beauty and history of the land," the foundation's website says. A number of former Michigan governors and Detroit mayors, including Coleman A. Young, are buried in Elmwood.

1200 Elmwood Ave.; 313-567-3453; visiting hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., daily (winter), 7 a.m.-7 p.m., daily (summer).

Grand Lawn Cemetery | The Rouge River cuts through Grand Lawn, where it's "not uncommon to see ... deer, squirrels, geese, ducks, and multiple species of birds," the cemetery's website says. The 154-acre Grand Lawn was previously called "one of the most beautiful and unique cemeteries" in the country by Life magazine, the website says.

23501 Grand River Ave.; 313-531-2050; visiting hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat.; 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sun. — mt