• Detroit History Tour: Woodmere Cemetery

    by  • July 6, 2010 • Best of THE NIGHT TRAIN, History • 11 Comments

    Woodmere is part of Detroit’s clutch of historic rural cemeteries. (See also Woodlawn and Elmwood.) It’s on Fort Street in Del Ray Springwells. The cemetery was founded in 1867 by a cabal of influential businessmen who wanted to plan a big (bigger than Elmwood), beautiful rural cemetery, far (farther than Elmwood) from the bustle of the city.

    They did a pretty swell job, overall. And Woodmere is still in pretty good shape, even though some plots are crowded, with disorienting headstones facing every which way.  It’s hilly and rambling and there’s a lake in the middle ringed by leaning willows.

    Woodmere also has a dedicated historian and champion, Gail Hershenzon, who literally wrote the book on Woodmere. She also runs a website with a digital records search (AMAZING!). And gives tours. I wish every historic cemetery had someone so loyal posted at this task. Anyway, we’ll leave the dirty work to her and just show you some of the many, many pictures we took.

    Some folks you know might know who stay at Woodmere:

    David Buick: founder of the Buick Car Company and (fun fact) inventor of bathtub enamel.

    Dungaree hero Hamilton Carhartt.

    Lumber baron David Whitney, whose former home is now The Whitney. See also: the Whitney Building.

    Some things we noticed: A whole lot of Masons.

    I love the Square and Compasses paned into the stained glass.

    There are a number of fraternities, lodges and orders with monuments at Woodmere — some even have their own plots.

    The Elk’s Rest.

    A commemorative plaque in memory of Benjamin Geiger, erected by the Detroit Lodge No. 6 of the Ancient Order of United Workmen.

    Woodmen of the World.

    Woodmere also has a U.S. Army section, where a number of Civil War soldiers are at rest. Many were originally buried at Fort Wayne.

    We met a lonely, pretty cemetery dog. I didn’t get too close and neither did he, but we regarded each other like this for a long time.

    I like this unusual in-ground mausoleum. Hershenzon says the whole monument used to be sparkly white.

    One imagines that it’s the obelisk that’s been growing, and not the tree:

    There’s not as much Egyptophilia at Woodmere as there is at Woodlawn, but the Van Baalen crypt is a gem:

    Check out the Pharaoh faces in the doors:

    Plenty of headstones and gravemarkers in German.

    A lovely barefoot angel watching over the Widman plot.

    We took way too many photos. See more on our Facebook page.


    Detroit, history, cities, cemeteries.


    11 Responses to Detroit History Tour: Woodmere Cemetery

    1. July 8, 2010 at 4:36 am

      Great post. This cemetery is really cool to walk around. One day while shooting photos there I came across a small Bosnian Muslim section of new wooden and stone headstones. Something I never expected.

    2. amy
      July 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks, Tim! I wish I had seen that section, too. It’s such a big cemetery — I was there for almost 2 hours and I feel like I barely saw it.

    3. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #72: Woodmere Cemetery | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

    4. Grace lesher
      April 13, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Have relatives buried in Woodmere, Cementery,

      The names,

      Doelker’s and Calder


    5. Sally Grieb
      July 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      I am looking for the grave of a great Uncle William Walker and who might be buried with him.

    6. Lisa Barton
      October 15, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      This Cemetery is NOT in Del Ray. It is in Southwest Detroit on Fort Street. Although Del Ray is close, it is not in Del Ray. I worked there for 4 years as Office Manager.

    7. amy
      October 16, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Thanks for the correction, Lisa! I wrote this post several years ago before I knew my way around. Fixed it! Thanks.

    8. Brenda
      May 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      i have walked thru this cemetary at dusk all by myelf and have seen almost all of these graves my Mother is buried here also way in the back in the Ferndale section we use to love to go there and feed the ducks etc in the pond its shame that ppl came there and destroyed that and some of these beautiful monuments .

    9. candice
      May 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Sally and Grace. You can find your loved ones grave sites when you visit the cemetery, they provide a map. Also on the website.

    10. David
      May 15, 2014 at 5:21 am

      I drove by everyday when I lived over on Falcon when I was a kid. Brings back a lot of memories. Wish Detroit would get back to the city it once was. It is a shame that a city that once was the booming auto manufacturing hot spot has come to what it is today.

    11. Marion Rosinshi
      June 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Are there any Woodmere tours anymore? I went to one several years ago and I loved it. I have friends who would like to go. Please let me know.

      That used to be the most beautiful cemetary. When I was a kid (long ago) my father drove my grandparents and me there every Sunday, without fail, to tend to all the graves of relatives. It was important to keep their graves in perfect order as a sign of love and respect for those who were gone.Makes me sick to see it now. Such a shame.

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