Rest in Peace: Exploring Cleveland's Monroe Street Cemetery

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fun fact, or super-creepy fact, depending on how you feel about such things: I love old cemeteries. They're such peaceful, quiet places for alone time, & the headstones are often fascinating - the wording, the designs, the names, the epitaphs. I've only even written here about exploring Lake View Cemetery, an historic, beautiful, & socially acceptable cemetery to love; I've never written about others because it just seems... weird.

Recently, though, two of my favorite blogs have helped me feel less weird about my weird love of weird cemeteries. Kayla of The Dainty Squid (she lives in my 'hood) & Alexandra of Only Living Girl in New York (we went to college together) both blog regularly about cemetery exploration, among other adventures, & ogling their photos made me want to share a few of my own.

Earlier this week, I took a quick midday break & found myself at the Monroe Street Cemetery in Ohio City, which was incorporated into the City of Cleveland in 1836; the cemetery was designated a Historic Landmark in 1973. More than 32,000 people are buried in the 4-acre space. I'm no photographer, like Kayla & Alexandra are, & a grey, rainy, January day in the CLE is not exactly the setting for vibrant photos - but, hey, that's life in Cleveland, right?

The Monroe Street Cemetery is the final resting place of two Ohio City mayors, a few notable local abolitionists, more than 500 members of the military, & plenty of "ordinary persons who, with the sweat of their brows, made Ohio City and Cleveland grow and become a major metropolitan area," writes the Cemetery Foundation.

There are also a number of graves that simply read "baby," marking the resting place of infants that died in childbirth or didn't live more than a few hours past birth. These always make me so sad, even a hundred-plus years later.

The cemetery certainly isn't in disrepair, per se, but it's not in great shape, either. Many of the headstones are too mossy to be readable, & lots of them are crumbling, broken, or fallen. The Cemetery Foundation is working toward restoring the area, though, including a number of old mausoleums that are, for now, shuttered. One of the mausoleums even has an underground space, apparently, that remains a mystery even to those who are working on its restoration. They're hoping to open it soon.

I particularly liked all the headstones that are right up against the cemetery's outer edges, where brush & ivy have all but covered some of them. I also always like to see the designs & fonts that families chose for their late loved ones, & this cemetery has a good variety of them. I saw at least three made to look like tree trunks!

The Monroe Street Cemetery is also home to the graves of a number of Civil War soldiers who fought for the Union. Visitors come from all over the country to find the headstones of their family members - not just Civil War soldiers but also those who served during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, & both World Wars.

I would've liked to have spent a little bit more time at this cemetery, & in nicer weather. It had rained earlier in the day, so it was almost too muddy to navigate - but luckily, it's just around the corner from me, which means I predict another visit in the future so that I can keep exploring this chunk of Cleveland history.

Do you ever explore old cemeteries, or is it too creepy a habit for your tastes?

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