History Tour: Roseland Park Cemetery

Roseland Park Cemetery was organized in 1906. Located along the swiftly developing Woodward Corridor, it was easily accessible by trolley, but far enough away from the central city’s grime and noise to be respectable. A classy, modern place for people of means to ship out to upon their departure from mortal coil.

Writes Thaddeus DeWitt Seeley in his History of Oakland County:

Roseland Park Cemetery, rapidly developing into a beautiful home for the dead and a charming and restful breathing spot for the living, is located at the northwest corner of Woodward avenue and the 12 Mile road, Royal Oak township. It was originally a part of the estate of John Benjamin and was purchased in May, 1908. The cemetery about equidistant from the city hall in Pontiac and that of Detroit and, lying as it does along Woodward avenue, is in direct line with the of growth from either direction and is readily reached by electric transportation.

I came for one reason: Louis Kamper, the German architect who brought you the Book-Cadillac, the Book Tower, Broderick Tower and the Hecker House*.

A cadre of granite caryatids await your arrival at the front gates: the first sign that you are in Kamperland. (See here for the Roseland caryatids and here for another example of Kamper’s love of caryatids.)

But Roseland’s main attraction is Kamper’s colossal mausoleum, which was the largest of its kind in the United States when it opened in 1914.

roseland mausoleum

(For a point of reference, here’s Louis Kamper’s home in Indian Village.)

This astonishing house of the dead, occupancy 1300, includes Louis Kamper’s own crypt.

It wasn’t open when we visited on the weekend (I’m not sure if it ever is), but a peek through the windows revealed a soaring open structure with natural light, high stained glass windows, Doric columns and balconies. The nearby historical marker mentions white Vermont marble facing.

roseland mausoleum doors

Isn’t there something kind of foreboding about this? I mean, I am the last person to let a cemetery creep me out, but this structure is so manse-like, I can’t help but imagine it in nightmare mode: you roll up to the swanky party and knock on the heavy bronze doors, only to find yourself trapped in an empty marble mansion with bodies in the walls, panicking to the soundtrack of a ghostly choir singing some fever-pitch requiem.

The other mausoleum, a sleek modernist cuboid that seemed to go on forever, disturbed me equally, in kind of a Space Odyssey way. The obelisk that holds the dark secret of our human future. Plus a giant mural of an agonizing Biblical betrayal for good measure.

last supper

Okay, let’s cut that out. You know who’s buried at Roseland Park? This guy!

albert avery grinnell

Albert Avery Grinnell was part of the piano-manufacturing Grinnell Brothers* family, although the founding Grinnell brothers Ira and Clayton preceded him by a few generations. (I learned to play on a Grinnell Brothers piano, so these guys are close to my heart.)

A.A. Grinnell was also a respected numismatic — a collector of coins and currencies. From an account of an American Numismatics Association meeting in August 1940:

At 3:30 it was still raining, and at that hour the party boarded buses and private cars for the Detroit Golf Club, where we were the guests at a complimentary dinner given by A.A. Grinnell, a member of the Detroit Coin Club and one of our best-known collectors. At each place had been placed an aluminum token struck for Mr. Grinnell for the occasion. The obverse bore the bust of Lincoln. The reverse read: ‘Life Member No. 20, ANA Albert A. Grinnell, Numismatist, 1515 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.’ The dinner was one of the most enjoyable features of the entire convention, and Mr. Grinnell was congratulated on all sides for being an ideal host.

His mausoleum doors:

mausoleum doors

There are a few war memorials at Roseland Park, including one for Spanish American Veterans:

spanish american war veterans plaque

spanish american war veterans

And one for Veterans of Foreign Wars, featuring the famous Spirit of the American Doughboy (more on him!):

VFW plot

spirit of the american doughboy

There are some notables buried at Roseland including Rob Tyner of the MC5 and David Jefferson “Davy” Jones of the Ty Cobb-era Detroit Tigers, but I missed them, and just kind of wandered. Here, I saw this pretty mausoleum.

johnson mausoleum

Who’s been here? Have you seen anything else of note?

(*For more on Grinnell Brothers and Louis Kamper, Buildings of Detroit is your guy.)

#albert avery grinnell#grinell brothers#louis kamper#roseland park cemetery#roseland park mausoleum#spanish american war veterans#spirit of the american doughboy

Comments

  1. Les Kopel - November 24, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

    The information in the article linked to ”The Spirit of the American Doughboy” is a little out of date. For more than you’ll ever want to know about ”The Spirit of the American Doughboy” and its creator E. M. Viquesney, go to my extraordinarily long and wordy web site at http://doughboysearcher.weebly.com/.

  2. Dominique - November 26, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    Yes indeedy, I’ve been to Roseland…and even wrote about it as part of a special Daily Tribune section I did several years ago about Woodward Avenue and its history.
    And, I’ve been inside of the Kamper Mausoleum!
    We first went to Roseland seeking a geocache near the Spanish American War memorial, so I knew about it when I started researching the Trib tab.
    Here’s a link to the geocache there http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=59e777f0-a184-4d4f-b4c6-c84cd3f65ea1

    The cache description is a pretty interesting history and says the site includes the graves of seven “Buffalo Soldiers” from the 9th and 10th Cavalry and names them.

    …took me a couple of days to dig up my files for the Trib stuff I did from my old back up drive…

    When I went back to do the story (I included this site in a section about historic markers along Woodward in the Trib’s circ area), I talked with a fellow in the cemetery office who gave me the key to the mausoleum. I didn’t really need it because the building was often open during the day, during the week, so folks could visit…so it might be open if you visit again.
    I was a little creeped out being inside of it all by my lonesome, but it was an interesting visit. One thing they did have right inside of the door was a glass-front case with a large display book containing pages from an accounting of Berkley history that mentioned some of the city’s earliest settlers in the 1820s.
    Dr. Mattie Juliet Clark (gospel pioneer), US Reps Charles Gibb Oakman & Frank Ellsworth Doremus, former Michigan state rep Raymond W. Hood are other folks buried at Roseland.
    The cemetery director also told me that the house near the cemetery’s front entrance was an early 20th century kit home where the cemetery caretakers lived.

    I’ve noticed in recent months that the mausoleum looks as if they’ve painted it recently. It now looks far better (at least from Woodward) than it has in ages.

  3. Lia - May 8, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

    This cemetery is not located in Royal Oak Township. It is located in the City of Royal Oak, which is quite different. Royal Oak Township sits farther south, at the border of Detroit.

  4. amy - May 9, 2014 @ 6:18 am

    Hi Lia – you’re correct, but the reference to Royal Oak township is from a historical document. I presume the author was using the word “township” as a common and not a proper noun. (The street address of the cemetery is actually in Berkley.)

  5. Ed - April 9, 2016 @ 7:02 pm

    Royal Oak Township was established in 1833 as a regular, 36-square-mile (93 km2) civil township, and at one time consisted of all or parts of the following modern cities and villages of Hazel Park, Ferndale, Oak Park, Madison Heights, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Berkley, and Clawson. The cemetery was indeed in Royal Oak Township as Royal Oak became a city in 1921. Berkley became a city in 1932.

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