1200 Elmwood St
Detroit, MI 48207
Bella Morte Rating: 2 Tombstones
Sharing a common border and length of black wrought iron fence with neighbouring Mount Elliott is Detroit's Elmwood cemetery. The gates to Elmwood are located down a nondescript roadway which shares its cement with some sort of Baptist Church that looks more like an old Howard Johnson Restaurant! Once inside, it was immediately evident the cemetery had much more to offer than its poor Catholic neighbor. The aura was quiet and soothing. Although the earliness of the season at the time of our visit left most trees bereft of anything but tiny buds, splashes of yellow forsythia, the pink froth of cherry trees and the pale glow of magnolias announced the presence of spring.
We stopped at the office, but, in spite of posted hours suggesting otherwise, it was locked and empty (probably because it was “Good Friday”). Off to our right, the Mausoleum Plaza Complex, completed in 1994, caught our attention. We made the trek over and walked across a bridge which spanned a tiny stream beyond which stood the aforementioned buildings. The name says it all..."Plaza Complex." The uninspired buildings are constructed like a series of enclosed courtyards, each with a set of boring plate glass doors that lead to a completely open interior plainly visible from the road.
Directly alongside the "Plaza Complex," we’d also noticed an older mausoleum built into the hillside and were intent on seeing if it held anything of interest. This structure turned out to be an old community mausoleum and was much more interesting, but, sadly, it was locked.
Modeled after Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Elmwood proved to be a pleasant enough place with a handful of interesting monuments, the most notable of which were the bronze woman seated in a grove (pictured above) and the "Veiled Lady" marking the Waterman lot. Although the relief of a woman ascending towards the heavens, arms folded across her breast, is attractive enough, the story behind it is what makes it fascinating. Carved of Carrera marble in Italy, the monument began its journey to Detroit only to be shipwrecked off the coast of Spain in 1869. It took two long years for the stone to be salvaged, but its perilous journey was not over. It next sank beneath the muddy waters of the Hudson River where it once again awaited recovery. Interesting how all these watery mishaps befell the Waterman stone, wouldn't you say? Having finally reached its destination, the monument suffered one more tragedy when, in 1919, it was toppled during a severe windstorm. Let's hope she's seen the last of her troubles now.
Elmwood also boasts a peaceful water feature, a proliferation of pheasants which were fond of making awful screaming noises, and no shortage of tiny purple flowers carpeting the greening lawns. We discovered an older section of the cemetery which backed up on an apartment complex. The area's claim to fame was a small section of land which afforded wonderful views of the lake. A number of assorted obelisks and large monuments cluttered the ground there—each affluent family from the past vying for a better eternal view than the next.
Nothing extraordinary to report in regard to Elmwood. It's worth a visit if you happen to be in the area, but we wouldn't recommend travelling any great distance to explore the grounds.