Crown Hill Cemetery

Crown Hill Cemetery has served the Indianapolis area for more than 150 years as both a place of interment and a peaceful green space within the city. The burial ground sees more than 25,000 visitors annually; beyond those attending services, many use the cemetery as urban open space, such as the members of Crown Hill’s walking club. Initially located on the rural outskirts of the city, the cemetery is now surrounded by Indianapolis homes and is bisected by a major thoroughfare.

First incorporated on September 25, 1863, with the purchase of 236 acres of land, Crown Hill today covers 590 acres. It was named Crown Hill because at the time it was the highest point in the area. Due to the pressures of a booming urban population and problems at the city’s old main cemetery (Greenlawn, located several blocks southwest of the downtown, on the east bank of the White River), Crown Hill became the place for distinguished Indianapolitans to be buried. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many were moved from Greenlawn and were reinterred at Crown Hill.

Notable Burials

More than 200,000 men, women, and children are buried at Crown Hill. It is the resting place of many notables, including President Benjamin Harrison, Hoosier authors Booth Tarkington and James Whitcomb Riley, Butler founder Ovid Butler, infamous bank robber John Dillinger, international suffragette leader Mary Wright Sewall, Indiana’s first African American Representative James Sidney Hinton, Sudoku inventor Howard Garns, industrialist Eli Lilly, and many others. Also laid to rest in the cemetery are 1,616 Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War while imprisoned in Camp Morton, located on the former Indiana State Fairgrounds (bounded by 19th and 22nd streets, Central Ave. and Talbott St.), as well as two sections of unmarked graves for the Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children. The first person laid to rest in Crown Hill was Lucy Ann Seaton, one day after the cemetery’s dedication.

Art and Green Space

In addition to being a final resting place, Crown Hill also plays an important role as a much needed green space within the city. At the time of its creation Crown Hill was a rural cemetery selected for its natural beauty and designed to follow the contours of the land and allow for peaceful strolls among the statuaries. Crown Hill is also home to a great variety of flora and fauna: 107 individual species of trees, both native and foreign, or 4,156 trees total, have been inventoried on the cemetery grounds. The cemetery is also home to a number of white-tailed deer that are most active during dawn and dusk. The cemetery has many pieces of sculpture that serve as either memorial or as part of a grave site.

Images

34th Street Gate

34th Street Gate

Located at 34th Street and Boulevard Place, the second main entrance to Crown Hill Cemetery was designed by local arcitect Adolph Scherrer. Relocated from the west side of Crown Hill in 1884 to give more direct access to the cemetery, this Waiting Station just inside the arches served as the office until the new funeral home was constructed at 700 West 38th Street in 1969. Image courtesy of John Sureck, 2013. | Creator: John Sureck View File Details Page

Gothic Chapel, 1875

Gothic Chapel, 1875

Constructed in 1875 by notable Indianapolis architect Diedrich August Bohlen, the Gothic Chapel was originally designed to store up to 96 bodies during the winter when freezing often delayed burials until spring. Image Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Historic Marker

Historic Marker

Crown Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 28, 1973. Image credit: Indiana Historical Bureau | Creator: Indiana Historical Bureau View File Details Page

Aerial View, 2012

Aerial View, 2012

Landscape architect John Chislett designed the cemetery to be a picturesque park. Chislett™s son Frederick and grandson John would act as superintendents of Crown Hill for many years to come. Image Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. View File Details Page

Confederate Mound, 2012

Confederate Mound, 2012

Bodies of Union soldiers were moved from Greenlawn Cemetery as early as 1866, but Confederate Soldiers who died at Camp Morton in Indianapolis were not moved until 1933. The 27-ft. tall monument that originally accompanied the Confederate graves at Greenlawn was moved to Garfield Park in 1928. The Confederate Soldiers™ remains in Crown Hill are marked with plaques bearing their names and units. Image Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Corliss Ruckle

Corliss Ruckle

This life-size statue depicts 12-year-old Corliss R. Ruckle, who died of diptheria in 1889. Crown Hill has many other lifelike statues that serves as both as works of art and as memorial markers. Image Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Crown Hill: History, Spirit, and Sanctuary, Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Mourners, 1916

Mourners, 1916

Thousands of mourners, including many women and children, lined the cemetery roads for author James Whitcomb Riley™s funeral in June 1916. Image Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Riley Events and Funeral, Indiana Historical Society | Creator: Lester Nagley View File Details Page

Harrison Monument, 1911

Harrison Monument, 1911

President Benjamin Harrison was laid to rest after his death from pneumonia in 1901. Image Courtesy of W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society. | Source: W.H. Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society | Creator: W.H. Bass Photo Company View File Details Page

AIDS Memorial

AIDS Memorial

The cemetery hosts a wide range of special monuments, such as this one dedicated in 2000, which honors the Hoosier AIDS victims who died between 1982 and 1999. Image Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Crown Hill: History, Spirit, and Sanctuary View File Details Page

James Whitcomb Riley Monument, 1935

James Whitcomb Riley Monument, 1935

Beloved by his contemporaries, Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley was interred in Crown Hill Cemetery in 1916. The Riley Monument is located at the highest point the Crown Hill in respect to his role in shaping poetry and literature. Image Courtesy of W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society. | Source: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society | Creator: W.H. Bass Photo Company View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

John Sureck, “Crown Hill Cemetery,” Discover Indiana, accessed October 22, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/32.

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