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5 Reasons to Visit Lake View Cemetery (Yes, Just For Fun!)

Let me clear something up for you before I dive into this post: yes, I am one of those people who loves cemeteries. I’ve visited old and interesting cemeteries all around the world – from “happy” cemeteries in Romania to Jewish cemeteries in Poland to above-ground cemeteries in New Orleans – and am sure I’ll continue to visit more on my travels.

A good cemetery is not just a place of remembrance, but also a place that exudes peace. There are many cemeteries around the world that are just as beautiful as they are poignant – and I believe that Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery is one of these.

Lake View Cemetery sits on 285 acres of land on Cleveland’s East side, and dates back to 1869 (meaning the cemetery turns 150 in 2019!). The cemetery was modeled after the Victorian-era garden-style cemeteries of England and France, and is often called “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum” because of its beautiful landscaping and memorials.

Funerary sculpture at Lake View Cemetery

5 reasons to visit Lake View Cemetery

While cemeteries ARE a place where people go to grieve for and remember the dead, you can still visit these places “for fun,” too – as long as you’re respectful about it.

Lake View Cemetery is absolutely a destination in Cleveland, great for taking out-of-town guests, or for exploring through a photographer’s lens. If you’ve never been to Lake View Cemetery before, here are five reasons you should consider visiting, even if you don’t know anyone buried there:

1. Wade Memorial Chapel

Inside Wade Chapel at Lake View Cemetery

The Neo-Classical Wade Memorial Chapel is a beautiful little building set alongside an ornamental lake in Lake View Cemetery. The chapel was built in 1901 in honor of Jeptha Wade, a Cleveland industrialist who founded Western Union Telegraph.

And while the outside of Wade Chapel is pretty, it’s really the inside that’s the star. The interior of Wade Memorial Chapel was completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany – in fact, it’s one of the only remaining Tiffany-designed interiors that still exists.

The interior of Wade Chapel is themed around “The Voyage of Life.” The walls are covered in large glass mosaics, with one wall depicting “The River of Life” and another “The River of Death.” The central piece of the chapel is a large stained glass window titled “The Flight of Souls.”

Mosaic wall in side Wade Memorial Chapel
Mosaic wall at Wade Memorial Chapel

Fun fact: Wade Chapel has had electricity since the day it opened, making it the first electrified public building in Cleveland.

Wade Chapel was was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and is still used for wedding ceremonies and funerals today.

2. James A. Garfield Memorial

James A. Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery

James A. Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. He only served for a few months, though, before being assassinated in 1881.

Garfield and his wife are interred in the James A. Garfield Memorial, a huge 180-foot-tall memorial in the heart of Lake View Cemetery.

The memorial was designed by George Keller, and combines Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine styles of architecture. It features reliefs made from Ohio sandstone, terra cotta panels, stained glass windows, mosaics, red granite columns, and a 12-foot-tall white Carrara marble statue of President Garfield.

James A. Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery

It’s one thing to read about it, but another entirely to see this artistry in person.

Visiting the Memorial Hall on the main floor of the memorial is a must, but be sure to also visit the crypt (where Garfield’s casket sits) and the upper level and outdoor balcony that offers up views of Cleveland and Lake Erie.

James A. Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery
James A Garfield casket at Lake View Cemetery
Garfield is the only US President who’s casket is viewable to the public.

3. Beautiful landscaping

As I mentioned before, Lake View Cemetery was built in the style of the grand Victorian era cemeteries of Europe. This is reflected in the cemetery’s stunning landscaping.

Blooming tree at Lake View Cemetery
Pond at Lake View Cemetery

No matter what time of year you visit Lake View Cemetery, chances are something will be in bloom. In the spring, magnolia trees explode into shades of pink, and white and yellow daffodils open up to cover a section of the cemetery dubbed Daffodil Hill. In the autumn, Japanese maple trees burst into color.

Spring blooms at Lake View Cemetery
Daffodil Hill at Lake View Cemetery
Daffodil Hill

Lake View Cemetery covers 285 acres, and it’s all beautifully manicured.

4. Famous figures

Cleveland was once one of the largest cities in the United States. Because of this, many big names called the city home – some of whom are buried in Lake View Cemetery.

Some interesting graves you can visit include:

John D. Rockefeller

The richest man in the world called Cleveland, Ohio, home. In fact, it was here that he founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870. The whole Rockefeller family is buried in Lake View Cemetery. You’ll often find John D. Rockefeller’s grave stone covered in coins – a nod to the fact that he often handed out dimes to children. (Where to find it: Section 10, Lot 49)

Rockefeller grave site
John D Rockefeller grave site
Rockefeller’s grave with coins on it

Alan Freed

Local disc jockey Alan Freed officially coined the term “rock and roll” to describe the new type of music he began playing on the radio in the 1950s. His grave stone is shaped like a jukebox. (Where to find it: Section 5-E)

Alan Freed jukebox grave at Lake View Cemetery
Alan Freed grave at Lake View Cemetery

Eliot Ness

To Clevelanders, Eliot Ness was the city’s Safety Director from 1935-42. But before he came to Cleveland, he was head of the Prohibition Bureau in Chicago. There, he was famous for his efforts to bring down gangster Al Capone. The story of his life has been retold many times in different versions of his autobiography, The Untouchables. (Where to find it: Section 7, Lot 8)

Eliot Ness grave at Lake View Cemetery
It’s not uncommon to find toy police cars at this grave.

Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar was a comic book writer best known for “American Splendor.” His grave marker has an amusing inscription. It says: “Life is about women, gigs, and bein’ creative.” People often leave pens here in tribute to his work. (Where to find it: Section 7, next to Eliot Ness’ grave)

Harvey Pekar grave at Lake View Cemetery
Based on the inscription alone, I think he’d appreciate the pen tributes.

Ray Johnson Chapman

Another interesting grave to visit is that of Ray Chapman. Chapman was a baseball player who played shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. He died in 1920 after being hit in the head by a pitch in a game against the New York Yankees. He’s the only MLB player to have died from an injury received during a game. His grave stone is always covered in Indians hats, baseball gloves, and sunflower seeds. (Where to find it: Section 42, Lot 16)

Grave of Ray Chapman

Tip: Stop in to the Lake View Cemetery office or Wade Chapel to pick up a cemetery map to make finding all these graves easier.

5. Sculpture-like grave stones

Lastly, you can spend hours wandering around the different sections of Lake View Cemetery just admiring the sculpture-like headstones and funerary monuments. Lake View Cemetery was largely inspired by the elaborate Victorian cemeteries in Europe, where bigger was better and ornate grave sites were the way to go.

Graves at Lake View Cemetery

One of the must-see monuments to see in Lake View is the Angel of Death Victorious at the gravesite of the Haserot family (Section 9, Lot 4). Created by sculptor Herman Matzen, the “Haserot Angel” is larger than life and appears to always be “crying” black tears.

Haserot Angel at Lake View Cemetery
Haserot Angel at Lake View Cemetery

Need to know

Lake View Cemetery is open year-round to visitors. Hours to note are as follows:

Cemetery grounds:

  • Nov 1 – Mar 31: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Apr 1 – Oct 31: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Cemetery office:

  • Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Wade Chapel:

  • Daily April 1 – November 19: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Note that the chapel may close for funerals or weddings.

James A. Garfield Memorial:

  • Daily April 1 – November 19: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Funerary sculpture at Lake View Cemetery

There are designated parking areas near the cemetery office and Wade Chapel, but you can also park at the side of just about any road as long as you’re cognizant of cemetery traffic and don’t block roads or park on the grass. If you ride a bike to the cemetery, you’re asked to walk it through the grounds instead of riding it.

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Have you been to Lake View Cemetery? If not, would you like to visit?

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Dorothy Billow

    Golf carts to rent would be a plus for older visitors to visit the cemetery

    1. Amanda

      You can drive a car through the whole cemetery, and just pull over to the side of the road whenever you’d like to stop. There are even some parking spaces in certain areas. Before the pandemic, they also did trolley tours every now and then around the cemetery. Hopefully they’ll bring those back when they can!

  2. Shannon

    Beautiful Cemetery, reminds you of how wealthy East Cleveland was before it became Lagos. This is a VERY dangerous part of town, do NOT get lost over there, you may end up on The First 48. Cleveland is almost completely ghetto, well on its way to becoming Detroit, very similar to Milwaukee. Enjoy

    1. Amanda

      Pretty much everything you said here is incorrect, and I almost just deleted this comment. But I’d rather point out that Cleveland is most definitely not “completely ghetto.” Like any city, there are certain areas that experience more crime, but what a shame to write off an entire city this way. (Also, for the record, Lake View Cemetery is near Little Italy and University Circle, both excellent neighborhoods filled with good food and museums.)

      1. Paula Douglas

        Thank you for replying to this post! I’m from Illinois and fell in love with Cleveland few years ago just randomly coming here for a football game. And I can’t stop coming back! I have never felt unsafe here.

  3. Tresia Cutright

    Omg I’ve been here twice so far and would love to go back again great place ihave seen the weeping angle both times I went . Great time and it’s taken care of so nice I’d like to go again I live in Creston, Ohio and it’s well worth the time and travel to see it’s a must see cemetery. Lakeview is the best.

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