Day Eight in Cleveland continued southeast from the Siegel and Shuster boyhood homes to Lake View Cemetery, one of the hilliest and most scenic cemeteries I’ve ever seen. My wife’s penchant for locating Presidential burial sites in other states led us here to visit the final resting place of Cleveland’s own James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States of America.
He died five months after his inauguration, so I didn’t expect the James A. Garfield Memorial to be much more than a decent tombstone with a fence around it, not unlike Thomas Jefferson’s flowery but impassable plot in Monticello. In reality, Garfield’s mausoleum is a little shorter than Grant’s Tomb in Manhattan, but much larger than our house.
A statue of President Garfield is among many decorations inside, saluting the only President whose day job was in ministry prior to entering politics. He also served nine terms as a Congressman, but no one ever really brings that up, either. The most famous accomplishment of his short time in office sadly appears to be his own assassination, which seems a bit of a misnomer considering he lived 2½ more months after his shooting, albeit gravely ill the entire time.
A view of the dome from within. Daunting and intricate, as such domes go.
You can also climb a few stories’ worth of stairs and view the main room from above. An exterior balcony allows a scenic view of downtown Cleveland as well. (You’ll see that shot in the next entry. Narrative fiat.)
In the basement is the final resting place of Garfield as well as his wife Lucretia. She was recovering from malaria at the time of his shooting, but proceeded to outlive him by another 36 years.
On the other side of their caskets are the urns containing the ashes of their daughter Mary and their son-in-law, one-time Presidential secretary Joseph Stanley-Brown.
The Garfield Memorial isn’t the only fascinating sight in Lake View Cemetery. Another famous Cleveland hero is commemorated there: famous lawman Eliot Ness. Although his most notorious caseload was handled during his time in Chicago, after Prohibition’s repeal he relocated and later became Public Safety Director of Cleveland. To be honest, his career track was largely downhill after that, but that wasn’t enough to tarnish the contributions of his glory days.
With a crypt this enormous, we figured it had to contain someone famous and peeked inside. At the time we had no idea who Jeptha Wade was, and slowly backed out in hopes that no one would think us weird. It wasn’t until an hour ago that I remembered to look him up and confirmed he was a founding member of Western Union. If you’ve ever wired money to a loved one, or vice versa, now you know who to honor and where to pay your respects.
Seriously, though: just look the stained glass window in there. Mr. Wade must have meant a lot to the right locals.
I failed to copy down the name of the Eastern European at whose graveside this guitarist sculpture now sits and accompanies. That somehow seems cooler than a common tombstone.
If you’ve worn yourself out from all the walking and driving to locate the various sites marked on the cemetery map, this peaceful pond offers a chance for reflection, contemplation, beauty, and such. I’ve never seen a pond inside any of our cemeteries back home.
Eagle-eyed MCC readers will note that Lake View Cemetery was also the name of the Jamestown gravesite where Lucille Ball is buried, which we’d visited the day before. Either it’s a startling coincidence, or “Lake View” is as a popular name for cemeteries as “Springfield” is for towns.
Before we left, we ran across one more grave I didn’t expect to find, didn’t have in my notes, wasn’t even aware would be in the same cemetery, and never thought to look up, even though I was well aware the gentleman in question just passed away a few years ago. More on that one, and what he meant to me, next time.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]