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From Aretha to Edsel: These 2 cemeteries hold Michigan’s most iconic

Woodlawn Cemetery Mausoleum in Detroit, Michigan (Goldnpuppy)
Woodlawn Cemetery Mausoleum in Detroit, Michigan (Goldnpuppy) (Wikipedia Commons)

DETROIT – In Detroit, there are two historic cemeteries: Elmwood and Woodlawn.

Both host burial sites for local icons and influencers dating back more than 150 years.

Woodlawn Cemetery

Established in 1895, spanning 140 acres, Woodlawn is the burial site of many household Detroit names. It’s located on Woodward Avenue, between 7 Mile and 8 Mile roads.

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Monuments and mausoleums throughout the cemetery memorialize the lives of Detroit greats from the auto and music industries, key philanthropists to education, art and other causes, major political and financial figures and many others who served as an important part of history in the city.

Notable burials at Woodlawn include: Rosa Parks, Edsel Ford, Geraldine Ford, Billy Henderson, David Ruffin, Albert Cobo, the Dodge brothers, James Couzens, Hazen Pingree, William Clay Ford Sr., and Aretha Franklin. (More here from Woodlawn)

Dodge Brothers Mausoleum, Woodlawn Cemetery.
Dodge Brothers Mausoleum, Woodlawn Cemetery. (Wikipedia Commons)

Elmwood Cemetery

Designated a Michigan Historic Site in 1975, Elmood was first dedicated in 1846, with the first burial taking place three weeks prior. It is the oldest, continuously operating non-denominational cemetery in Michigan.

The cemetery sits on 86 acres of land, with hills and a creek that holds historical significance. Here’s some background from Detroit Historical Society:

“The creek was originally named “Parents Creek,” for a gunsmith appearing on the records of St. Anne’s Church. On July 31, 1763, the creek was renamed Bloody Run after Chief Pontiac’s uprising resulted in the deaths of British Captain Dalzell and his men. A plaque memorializes this event and the trustees of Elmwood have preserved this historic section as part of the natural beauty and history of the cemetery.”

The cemetery is also home to multiple monuments by notable sculptors, including “Flying Geese” by Marshall Fredericks and “Veiled Lady” by Randolph Rogers.

Among the notable Detroiters buried at Elmwood: 29 Detroit mayors (including Coleman A. Young and John R. Williams), six governors (including Russell A. Alger, Lewis Cass), and eleven senators, Bernhard Stroh, founder of the Stroh Brewery, Fred “Sonic” Smith, guitarist of the Detroit rock band MC5, and radio personality Martha Jean Steinberg.

Senator John Norvell and his wife Isabella H. Norvell marker, Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan (Jenorvell)
Senator John Norvell and his wife Isabella H. Norvell marker, Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan (Jenorvell) (Wikipedia Commons)

Elmwood was also recognized as a significant site for the National Underground Railroad.

Elmwood offers tours of the grounds, as well as events with local Audubon groups. It’s located in Detroit’s Eastside Historic Cemetery District.

Related reading: The story behind Detroit’s historic street names



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