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 bikers, runners, and 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. Given its size in acreage, Crown Hill remains the third largest cemetery in the country to this day.

As Indianapolis continued to expand throughout the 19th century, it became clear that Greenlawn Cemetery, the city’s principle burial ground nestled between the White River and Kentucky Avenue, would not be large enough and was a health hazard being so close to the center of town, its people, and its water table. In response, Crown Hill Cemetery was organized in 1863 as a non-profit, non-denominational cemetery and saw its first burial (a woman by the name of Lucy Ann Seaton) in June 1864, one day after the cemetery’s dedication. John Chislett, who platted Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne, helped select the site for the cemetery. His son Frederick was hired as the superintendent for Crown Hill, and he proceeded to lay out the grounds with meandering roads and natural, informal plantings. The cemetery received its name from the 750- foot hill within.

First incorporated on September 25, 1863, with the purchase of 236 acres of land, Crown Hill today covers 590 acres. In 1866, the United States government purchased 1.37 acres to create the United States National Military Cemetery within Crown Hill. 707 Union soldiers who died during the Civil War were moved from their original resting places in Greenlawn Cemetery to this area in Crown Hill Cemetery. Around 1876, D.A. Bohlen designed the Gothic chapel, and, in 1885, Adolf Scherrer created the imposing Gothic entry gates and waiting station. Confederate prisoners of war totaling 1,616, who died while being held at Indianapolis’s Camp Morton were moved in 1931 and are now buried in Crown Hill’s Confederate Mound. Ten bronze plaques near the mound include the names of all prisoners who perished while at Camp Morton.

Notable Burials

More than 200,000 men, women, and children are buried at Crown Hill. It is the resting place of many notable individuals, 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. There are two sections of unmarked graves for the Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children.

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

Crown Hill Cemetery

Crown Hill Cemetery

Source: Courtesy of Indiana DNR View File Details Page

Crown Hill Cemetery (34th Street Gate)

Crown Hill Cemetery (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. | Creator: John Sureck View File Details Page

Crown Hill Cemetery (Gothic Chapel, 1875)

Crown Hill Cemetery (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. | 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. | 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

Confederate Mound

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. | 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. | 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. | 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. | 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. | 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. | Source: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society | Creator: W.H. Bass Photo Company View File Details Page

Street Address:

700 West 38th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208 [map]

Official Website:

http://www.crownhill.org/

Cite this Page:

John Sureck, Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, “Crown Hill Cemetery,” Discover Indiana, accessed June 19, 2018, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/32.

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