Lake View Cemetery: Cleveland’s “open-air museum”

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By Dominique King

Published on: October 31, 2011

Visiting a cemetery might seem like a weird way to spend a day, but visiting Cleveland Lake View Cemetery is a fascinating way to learn more about the history of the city.

We visited Lake View to see the burial site of President James A. Garfield, a huge monument celebrating his life and achievements. We found so much more to enjoy and enjoy at the 265-acre cemetery, which attracts 400,000 visitors each year and bills itself as “an open-air museum”.

Planners envisioned Lake View, created in 1869as rivaling great victorian cemeteries in Europe with huge tombstones, ornate gardens and buildings.

Lake View is home to political figures like Carl Stokesthe first African-American mayor of a major American city when he became mayor of Cleveland in 1967, industrial giants like John D. Rockefeller and other important personalities in the commercial, civic and cultural history of Cleveland.

Here are some more interesting burial sites in Lake View:

  • Collinwood School Fire Memorial (1908) –Two teachers and 172 children died in a fire at Lakeview Elementary School on March 4, 1908. The tragedy sparked calls for tougher school safety codes across the country, and thousands attended the mass burial of nearly 50 victims near this memorial.

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  • Frances Payne Bolton (1885-1977)-First woman elected to Congress from Ohio. She succeeded her husband as Republican Representative after his death in 1939 and served 29 years in Congress. Bolton was a strong advocate of advanced nursing education, endowing what became the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

  • Coburn Haskell (1868-1922) – Invented the modern golf ball with Bertram G. Work in 1899. The coiled rubber ball with a hard outer shell of solid rubber was easier to control than earlier balls and increased the popularity of golf in the USA.

  • Garrett Morgan (1877-1963) – Invents the gas mask and obtains the first patent for a signal light in the United States. Morgan helped start The Call, an African-American weekly, in 1920.

  • Eliot Ness (1903-1957)-Director of Cleveland Public Safety, 1935-1942. Ness led the “Untouchables”, government agents fighting Al Capone’s organization in Prohibition-era Chicago. As Cleveland’s director of security, he cleaned up corruption and modernized the city’s police and fire departments. Lake View allowed relatives to spread Ness’s ashes on the cemetery’s Lake Wade in 1997, forty years after his death.

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My top tip for getting the most out of your visit to Lake View is to grab a map from the office or in lineor purchase a Lake View Historical Trail booklet for a few dollars at the office or small gift shop at the Garfield monument.

Lake View Cemetery is to open all year round from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day. The Garfield Memorial is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 1 through November 19. The cemetery office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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