Tag Archives: Woodlawn Cemetery

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

Martha in Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit

We met in 8th grade, when she sat behind me in History class.  We didn’t really become friends until 9th grade, when she noticed I was reading the Star Wars novelization while waiting for my mom to pick me up from school.  I can remember that day more crisply than almost anything else that happened in high school.  Martha had seen the original Star Wars movie over the summer, just like I had (more than once!). We made a date to see it again as soon as we could get a ride to the theater.  We have been friends ever since.

Last week I wrote about how Martha suggested I shouldn’t go to Detroit alone to poke around cemeteries.  Since she volunteered to come along, those excursions have been some of my favorite parts of my trips home.  I borrow my mom’s red Buick and we cruise in air-conditioned comfort to some quiet green space to chat and catch up and enjoy each other’s company as we explore.

Martha’s father used to make stained glass.  He’s elderly now and can’t cut the glass any longer, but Mart absorbed a lot of knowledge at his elbow as a teenager.  She can see more in a stained glass window than I will ever see.  She was telling me about the kinds of glass in this lovely window.

I’m so glad we’re friends.  I don’t think she knows what an inspiration she is to me.

Another of my cemetery adventures with Martha.

An illustrated exploration of Lower Michigan’s many graveyards

Boneyards: Detroit Under GroundBoneyards: Detroit Under Ground by Richard Bak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This beautiful collection combines historic photographs with modern black-and-white photos of cemeteries in Detroit and the surrounding cities, ranging as far abroad as Royal Oak and Ypsilanti. The new photos were shot by a number of different people, but author Richard Bak ties them all together.  He provides a page of explanation and description for each photo, which makes for a quick read full of fascinating tidbits of information.

The book opens with an essay that spans Michigan history from the Copper People and the Mound Builders in the years BC up through the French and the American settlers who moved into the Michigan Territory.  It discusses the old pioneer graveyards that made way for factories and freeways, then talks about the lovely garden cemeteries that date back to the middle of the 1800s:  Elmwood, Woodlawn, and Woodmere, as well as the Catholic burial ground called Mt. Elliott.

Historic photos run a gamut from kids sledding at Elmwood to medical students — including a couple of women — posing with a cadaver at the Michigan College of Medicine. The modern photos dwell on the faces of angels or a gravestone photograph of two kids with a huge old car.  I can’t really do justice to the variety without making a really long list.

If you enjoy history, graveyards, or lightly morbid local stories, this is the book for you.  You can order your own copy through Amazon: Boneyards: Detroit Under Ground.

Cemeteries of Detroit on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #12: Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan

Cemetery of the Week #73: Woodmere Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan

Cemetery of the Week #74: Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan

Historic Cemeteries Matter!

For the past seven years, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have awarded millions of dollars in grant funds to historic sites through Partners in Preservation, an online voting competition. Traditionally a cemetery is selected for the competition….but the cemetery never wins.

This year, THE WOODLAWN CEMETERY is among the 40 New York City sites eligible for a grant award. Funds are awarded to the sites with highest number of votes and the most creative and passionate supporters. We’re asking our friends who work tirelessly to preserve and interpret historic burial grounds to show the importance of these historic sites.

To win, we need you to vote daily. You can also post your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or on your website to promote the VOTE. Voting starts April 26th and goes through May 21st. Just clickwww.thewoodlawncemetery.org to get started.

If Woodlawn wins, grant funds will be used to restore the exterior of the Belmont Mausoleum. Built in 1910 by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, the mausoleum is a replica of the Chapel of St. Huber in Amboise, France. Deeded in Trust to Woodlawn, we must raise the funds to restore the memorial through grants and donations.

Please forward this email to those who care – HISTORIC CEMETERIES MATTER!

The Woodlawn Cemetery & Crematory


Serving Metropolitan New York City for over 140 years.

A lovely graveyard in Detroit

Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery: MIDetroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery: MI by Albert Dale Northup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unlike the adequate if uninspired photography in most Images of America cemetery guides, this book is beautifully illustrated with closeups of decorations throughout Woodlawn Cemetery. This book singlehandedly put Woodlawn on my must-be-visited list.

Northup also does a particularly good job of tying Woodlawn Cemetery to the history of Detroit. He steps outside the cemetery gates, including photos of Detroit landmarks when connected to Woodlawn’s permanent denizens. His capsule summations of the feuds amongst the early auto-makers makes me want to study up on Detroit history.

This book is coming home with me when I visit this year. I’ve been told I can’t poke around cemeteries in Detroit alone any more, but once I flash this beauty around, I shouldn’t have any trouble finding a date.

The book is available on Amazon: Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery (MI) (Images of America)

View all my reviews