Written by Ronald Horsley and used with his permission.
Greenlawn Cemetery (located at 1000 Greenlawn Avenue, Columbus, OH) is one of the single largest cemeteries in the midwestern United States (over 344 square acres, nearly 25 miles of private roads/paths, and expanding regularly). Originally incepted August 17th, 1848, it houses a literal "Who Was" of the "Who's Who" in America for the last 150 years.
Some notables interred at Greenlawn:
Also interred at Greenlawn are some more regionally-famous Ohioans, such as Governor James Rhodes (the Ohio governor who helped definitively shape the state's destiny for nearly forty years of civic duty, regrettably known on a national scale for being the governor who ordered in the National Guard at the Kent State killings). Also: Alice Schille, famed watercolor painter....the Wolfe family (publishing and media, owners of The Columbus Dispatch)....Ovid Smith (the Civil War hero who was part of the famed "General" train raid which inspired the Buster Keaton film of the same name)....Lucas Sullivant (surveyor and founder of the town of Franklinton, which effectively founded the capital city of Columbus as it stands today).
Very noticeable about Greenlawn is its striking scale and beauty--indeed, as has been often remarked by many visitors (myself included), it is easy to get lost in the cemetery grounds. Surrounded by thick treelines and high stone-gate fencing intermixed with more modern chainlinks, one can easily lose sight and sound of the city, though Greenlawn is just at the borders of the freeway/downtown bustle. It is an Audubon Society-recognized site for seeing dozens of rare and unusual species of birds. As a nature park it is unparalleled--groundhogs, squirrels (even the occasional and wonderful pure-white 'albino' or 'snow' squirrels) and other odd mammals are abundant. You never see a cat or stray dog wander these grounds, believe me. When Greenlawn was originally planned out, the Columbus City Fathers wanted it to be more than an oversized boneyard--they wanted it to be a city park as well.
Not many folks readily know that Greenlawn even exists, despite its size. It can't be seen from the major I-70 and I-71 freeway junctions that roar past it. There is a hint of it if you stand at nearby Cooper Stadium and try to see through the trees. But for the most part it has been left to its own devices for the last century and a half. Some of the graves have been replaced by the Board of Trustees as they decayed, but a vast majority of the stones and monuments are the same as they were when originally installed.
The size and scale are difficult to keep in good order--Greenlawn is a non-profit cemetery which devotes all its funds to its upkeep and maintenance. It takes a caretaking crew of almost a dozen men up to 9 days to mow and trim the lawns of the place completely. The Board of Trustees sell walking tours and take donations to keep it going, but it's an ongoing struggle.
The stonework ranges from the relatively banal (rose-quartz granite graves polished and newly-chiseled in basic block forms) to the Victorian empire designs of angels, trumpeting cherubs, and life-size statuaries of those buried (the fisherman statue of restaurauteur Emil Ambos is well known). Some of the tombs, such as the Packard grave, incorporate Egyptian/Sumerian designs, taken from the famed "Egypt Fad" of the latter 1920's after Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb. One mausoleum, the Hayden Family, is absolutely gigantic and foreboding as it sits at the edge of the swampy "Pit" pond--an aquifer-flooded quarry that once gave forth the limestone that paved the foundations of the cemetery's first roads.
The chapel/mausoleum, originally erected in 1902 and added with an additional internment wing in the 1960's, includes two life-size and gorgeous precious-stone mosaics of "Truth" and "Wisdom" as represented by almost Tarot-like figures flanking the entrance to the circular vestibule/center chamber. Sallowly lighting the vestibule is an original Tiffany-produced stained-glass window. You can hear the faint burble of water from the newer wing's memorial fountain--in the near-silence, the still air is eerie and it's perhaps the only place where one might risk feeling stifled or scared of Greenlawn's ever-present history and spirituality. The mausoleum is located dead-center of the Cemetery and can be used as a good marker point for one trying to keep their bearings. It is where Gov. Rhodes and his wife are buried.
There are hidden bridges, soldiers' and sailors' national monuments, flagpoles, Civil War graveyards arrayed in large, concentric circles ... all manner of memorials and paved paths to take on a day tour of the place.
One can talk a walking tour of Greenlawn every day of the week and never see the same sites twice--something in the neighborhood of 144,000 people are buried or contained here in some form or other, with new burials taking place regularly in the more-recently opened areas on the outer perimeter of the cemetery. There always seems to be a new corner or mysterious shaded bower to find--in some ways it is a Gothic, rambling nightmare place. Dark and with the kind of atmosphere one would respect in a vast Necropolis as this (it does give the feeling of being in a small, Oz-like ornate Victorian city), it can also be fairy-tale beautiful. Somber and summer-soft in a low-lit afternoon halo, Greenlawn fascinates and intimidates at the same time. Even driving through, one feels they should slow down, turn their radios off, and just carefully crawl along the gravel roads, looking and reflecting.
Just up the road from Greenlawn, technically within the boundaries of the original cemetery's layout (before city expansion and re-zoning altered the face of the city) is Greenlawn Abbey. Done in much the same Grecian-Gothic style of design as the mausoleum, the Abbey is a massive tomb of two-stories and sunken crypt which is usually sealed from the public (though some adventurous souls have been known to...illicitly 'venture' into it at night). Thurston the Magician, a former magical arch-rival of Harry Blackstone, Sr. and friend of Harry Houdini, is buried there. The Abbey is actually the first major site of Greenlawn within view as you drive along Greenlawn Ave, just crossing Harmon, on your way to the cemetery proper and to your right. Unlike Greenlawn itself, which seems to be left alone by even hardened vandals (wonder why?), the Abbey has had some vandalism strike its stained-glass windows and barred portals.
A good site to visit is Forgotten Ohio (http://www.geocities.com/forgottenohio) for pictures and more commentary on Greenlawn.