Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Elmwood Cemetery is a Jewel in the Heart of Detroit

Elmwood Cemetery sprawls quietly across Detroit's near-eastside, a seven-iron from people chucking dice on craps tables in Greektown. Martin Luther King High School lives just across the street. City Sports Center lives just across the fence.

It rests in the shadows of downtown Detroit, and yet Elmwood - an 86-acre chunk of historic real estate - provides an interesting reminder that Michigan's largest city was once just a settlement on the rise. Elmwood was born in 1846 when a handful of prominent Detroiters ventured out into what they thought of as the "suburbs" to establish a resting place for the city's residents.

The suburbs? At East Lafayette and Mt. Elliott? It's interesting to see the world through the perspective of time.

Over the next 160-plus years, Elmwood grew to become not only one of the most important cemeteries in the city, but in the state. It is Michigan's oldest continuously operating, non-denominational cemetery, the burial site of a veritable Who's Who of famous Detroiters and Michiganders. Politician Lewis Cass is buried there. So is War of 1812 veteran Charles Larned, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, and whiskey maker Hiram Walker.

We understand that a cemetery might not make your tourism to-do list. But Elmwood - with an old-world style chapel and a Victorian Gothic-style gatehouse - is an interesting visit. Like the folks at MotorCity Casino like to say, it's a million miles away.

And it's right down the street.