Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Founded in 1844 and inspired like many American rural cemetery movement burial grounds by Père LaChaise Cemetery in Paris, Spring Grove Cemetery is the huge contributor to the field in Cincinnati. Like many others, a cholera epidemic and a desire to replace small urban cemeteries spurred its founding.

An impressive Gothic Revival gatehouse welcomes the visitor.

Like all rural cemeteries, Spring Grove was out in the country, but wow, in this instance it was really out in the country! And also, compared to other cities, it was up the rugged and steep upper Mill Creek Valley. I have to think it was relatively difficult to reach the cemetery at first.

Spring Grove Cemetery. ca. 1858. December 18. Lithograph. Library of Congress.

The most noticeable central feature is a large lake, where I spotted a Neoclassical mausoleum across its expanse, like something out of the Arcadian Shepherds.

But the star of the vistas around the lake is the Dexter Mausoleum, which sits perched on a rise like something out of the Scottish Highlands.

Detroit Publishing Co., Publisher. Chapel in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio. United States Ohio Cincinnati, 1906. [?] Photograph. Library of Congress.

You can just barely see it poking through the trees above, but as you come around one of the winding roads, it comes into sight.

Perhaps what is most striking about the placement of mausolea in the cemetery is the large swaths of open land in between them. Surely these were very expensive pieces of property to buy in order to maintain these vistas by the owners.

I was also intrigued by the “comfort stations,” as I called them, scattered throughout the cemetery. Perhaps they were also intended for pickup spots for visitors; I do not know.

There is an abundance of sculpture, as well.

Again, look at the amount of open space in between the monuments and obelisks, preserved no doubt by large payments by the owners of the plots scattered around the fields.

Other parts of the cemetery are crowded as one typically sees below.

I was intrigued to see many more portrait busts; they are seen in St. Louis at Anton Griesedieck’s grave in Bellefontaine Cemetery and to a lesser extent at Louis Obert’s in New St. Marcus in St. Louis (more a bas-relief), but here they are very common.

The sculpture is just downright impressive, cast in bronze and perhaps representing some sort of allegorical figure.

We’ll finish off with a whole bunch of Neoclassical monuments and mausolea, many with some very beautiful sculpture and stonework. Overall, Spring Grove is an impressive entry in the rural cemetery movement, and it’s always interesting to compare St. Louis cemeteries to others around the same time period.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Michael R Boyd says:

    Fascinating. I am in no hurry to make a permanent move into one of these places, but I have a “morbid” fascination with old cemeteries. And your other postings from Cincinnati are really interesting as well, as are all your pieces on St. Louis.
    On another note Chris, I had sent you a message a while back seeking some help. I am working with Tom Grady on a book about Vandeventer Place which is nearing completion. Although a lifelong architecture fan (and a one-time semi-architect in several local firms) I am at a loss to ascribe any particular architectural style to the Dr. Wm. Moore house at #86 Vandeventer Place. If you get a chance take a look at it and let me know what you think. Thanks very much and keep up the good work! Mike Boyd thearchitective@aol.com.

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