Woodlawn Cemetery reveals grandeur of Detroit’s past

I’m thinking of creating bumper stickers that say: Caution – I stop for historic markers and I stop for cemeteries. I’ve been known to pull over from the furthest lane or even turn around, in order to discover what historic event took place where a historic marker now stands.

Cemeteries. Don’t get me started. I have a fascination with them. From small rural cemeteries to large historic urban ones, I’m drawn to them. Suddenly  steet signs and names of buildings make sense as you come face-to-headstone with local residents of other eras.

Yesterday was no exception. After conducting my weekly Discover Detroit’s Midtown Walking Tour, I ventured north on Woodward Avenue to the Michigan State Fairgrounds, former site of the oldest state fair in the nation. I wanted to see if I could find the boarding house where President Ulysses S. Grant once resided in when he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Unfortunately, I found the house, but a tall fence and threatening signs prevented me from getting a view of the front. Anyway, Detroit’s historic Woodlawn Cemetery is just across Woodward, and as I made the turn around, the gates beckoned me to enter. Thank goodness, I’m entering on my own accord, eh?

I was here about a year ago, and found the Dodge Brothers mausoleum, with two Sphinxes standing guard, very impressive. I wanted to see it again.

Well, Woodlawn Cemetery becomes a veritable Who’s Who in Detroit history from the moment you drive through the gates. What’s especially fascinating at Woodlawn, it that the folks not only lived large in life, but also in death. Everyone who was Anyone in life has a huge family mausoleum. Mimicking the grandeur of Grosse Point estates, you can just smell the money in sections of Woodlawn where rows of elaborate mausoleums create a subdivision dedicated to the rich and famous.

What I found especially interesting during this afternoon drive was the number of names on these massive monuments that I didn’t recognize. Who were these wealthy residents and what did they contribute to our region’s history? My short journey today leads to a quest to return and learn more about our past from these hallowed grounds.

Hudson family mausoleum

Is this the final resting place of major retail magnate J.L. Hudson and his heirs? Have to make sure.

Memorial to Dodge Brothers

Elaborate Dodge family mausoleum.

Grinnel Brothers brought music to Detroit for many years.

James Couzins Mausoleum

Stairway to heaven or what? Check out this grand tribute to the James Couzins family.

These are just a sampling of the magnificent memorials to Detroiters of yesteryear. Their final resting places give us a glimpse into the grandeur and opulance the city of Detroit once possessed.

Although not a Detroit native, Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks resided in Detroit during her final years. The Rosa Parks Chapel is where she is interred.

Rosa Parks Chapel at Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery
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