Visit Crown Hill Cemetary

Topics: Kurt Vonnegut

My place of choice to complete my mapping of public memory was Crown Hill Cemetery. If you do not live here the cemetery is in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the land covers approximately 555 acres of land and 25 miles of road. Crown Hill Cemetery was founded on September 25, 1863, to meet the needs of the growing city and the demands wrought by the Civil War (Organizational History. Crown Hill Cemetery is the third-largest private cemetery in the country (Schofield). The first burial in the cemetery was on June 2, 1864, and the person’s name was Lucy Ann Seaton (Schofield).

The first person to supervise the cemetery was Frederick Chislett, son of John Chislett who was the architect from Pittsburg who designed the cemetery into what it is today. Crown Hill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It is also a National Cemetery of the Union and Confederate soldiers. There are over 200,000 people buried there and counting.

This cemetery is amazing to see and explore.

You would be amazed at all the things that you can do including tours. The place is so big that is hard to cover all square footage if you are not in a car or a tourist bus. You can see the cemetery if you walk in and walk around, but you can also schedule a small tour if you would to see certain kinds. Tours are done at all times of the year, but it is impossible to see every square inch and learn all the exciting things that are listed here.

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You must try to see things that would help and guide you on your exploration.

In my exploration I wanted to view several areas but finding time to get to the tours was not something that I could do at all. I found a map and did my exploration. I wanted to explore the landscaping, the community that surrounds the cemetery, tombstones, kurt vonnegut and, people who are buried here in Crown Hill Cemetery.

Crown Hill Cemetery is a place of public memory where families are buried sculptures and art is shown to review for families to see as they bury their loved ones. When you visit Crown Hill, memories are created every day by providing a final resting place for the people of Indianapolis, Indiana love. This creates memories and provides a burial site that has art sculptures and memorial sites that are long-lasting and can be viewed for the public to see. When you think of public memory you must consider famous people who are buried there and bring visitors to see the famous person’s final resting place. This will create traffic and memorials that have different types of viewing that talks about the individual itself and the work that was done here in Indiana. For example, John Dillinger the criminal is buried here, the 23rd President Benjamin Harrison as well as the well-known House of Representatives for the 7th Congressional district, Julia Carson. Also, Crown Hill cemetery represents placesplace of public memory as famous historic statues and different monuments were built to show how the original cemetery was built and how its historic features help attract people to the cemetery to view all its historic features.

As we further discuss the rhetoric it is often referred to as the spoken word according to Wikipedia. Also, rhetoric is referred to the study of discourse, events, objects, and practices that attends to their character as meaningful, legible, partisan, and consequential (Dickerson, Blair, Ott, 2). But what most clearly distinguishes rhetoric from other critical protocols is that it organizes itself around the relationship of discourses, events, objects, and practices to ideas about what it means to be “public” (Dickerson, Blair, Ott, 2). What makes this rhetoric is that events such as speeches, public meetings, and different events happen at Crown Hill Cemetery. Thinking of a place where you bury loves ones you would never think that events happen in a place that we see as “sacred”.

What is vernacular? Vernacular is referred to as architecture concerned with domestic and functional rather than monumental buildings per The original plan once the land was purchased was to design it its gothic look. It was laid out by Pittsburgh landscape designer John Chislett, who accentuated the naturally hilly topography with meandering roads that crisscross the site and pathways interspersed with tree plantings and grassy meadows. Upon Chislett’s death in 1869, his son, Frederick Chislett, was hired to implement his design and act as the cemetery’s superintendent. The design was strongly influenced by Adolph Strauch’s work at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. A Gothic Revival chapel by Dietrich Bohlen was erected in 1875, and Adolph Scherrer designed the Gothic Revival entrance gate on Boulevard Street in 1885 (

Per Wikipedia, a cemetery is a place where the remains of the dead people or otherwise interred. The Greek word cemetery refers to a “sleeping place” which implies that the land is designed for a burial ground. After doing some research there are a lot of events that take place at Crown Hill Cemetery and that is not to just bury our loved ones. Crown Hill Cemetery holds 5K races, storytelling for Halloween, tours and public speaking events, and other engagements that do not have anything to do with death or burying Indianapolis families. The issue that can be easily defined is when is there a fine line in having Crown Hill Cemetery a place that is sacred ground to go visit our loved ones. I agree that tours should happen to view the place to show loved ones where they could view their final resting place, but it is necessary to have actual 5K races or storytelling. There are no ground rules on what type of events must take place and it continues to be an issue that Crown Hill will never be a resting place just for the dead. The historical features and site allow more showings of the cemetery as this is the third-largest cemetery in the U.S. Crown Hill was dedicated on June 1, 1864, and encompasses 555 acres (225 ha), making it the third-largest non-governmental cemetery in the United States (


The landscape and the architectural detail in the cemetery were extremely beautiful and amazing to capture the scenery. My first time walking in I felt so peaceful with a beautiful site to see. It is like a sense of calm and so much to take in and see. It was exciting, and heartfelt at the same time. There are so many headstones and architectural detail in the cemetery that it was hard to just focus on one area at a time. The first thing as I looked around was to explore the landscaping. There were so many trees and shrugs to continue to add the natural beauty that surrounds the cemetery that it was almost unreal. The manicured grass and the surroundings were breathtaking and only pique my interest to see more of the cemetery. Wildlife abounds in Crown Hill Cemetery, which serves as a large refuge for birds, white-tailed deer, and small animals. More than 100 species of trees have been identified on the grounds.

National Cemeteries

In 1866, 708 Union soldiers who died during the Civil War and were buried at Greenlawn were removed to Crown Hill and interred in Section 9, south of where the Gothic Chapel now stands. The United States government purchased this 1.37-acre section to become the second of three national cemeteries in Indiana. Two years later in 1868, the first Decoration Day service in Indianapolis was celebrated here, highlighted by a speech by Governor Conrad Baker. This traditional ceremony recurs each May on Memorial Day and remains the longest-running Memorial Day Ceremony in Indiana. (The three National Cemeteries in Indiana include the Crown Hill National Cemetery located behind the Gothic Chapel which is now composed of Sections 9 & 10; the Confederate Mound on Section 32 which holds the remains of 1,616 Confederate Civil War soldiers who died in Camp Morton (1862-1865) in Indianapolis; and the Marion National Cemetery in Marion, Indiana. The Confederate Mound was established in 1933 after the 1,616 Confederate soldiers were reburied at Crown Hill from Greenlawn. Their graves are memorialized at Crown Hill by a large granite monument and ten smaller ones with bronze plaques bearing the names and units of those interred at this location.)

Gothic Chapel

In 1875 an impressive limestone Gothic Vault, today known as the Gothic Chapel, was designed by Diedrich A. Bohlen and built by German craftsmen. It was erected in the very center of the cemetery. Originally a temporary storage vault for the dead, it contained 96 crypts in the side rooms off the Nave. It was built in 1875 for $38,922.25. The Gothic Chapel is now used for funeral services, tours, and special events. The chapel was restored in 1971 and again in 2004-2006 for $3 million. This major restoration included the addition of a Vestibule on the front, as well as a custom-built organ and many other major improvements and additions.

34th Street Gate, Waiting Station, and Sentry House

The principal entryway to Crown Hill was established in 1885 at 34th Street and Boulevard Place (replacing a former western entrance located around 32nd Street and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street). Adolph Scherrer designed this elaborate limestone archway as a companion to a brick administration building (the ‘Waiting Station’) that served as the cemetery office until 1969. A sentry house designed by the Bernard Vonnegut firm was constructed to the left of the entrance in 1904. (Bernard Vonnegut was the grandfather of the famous author Kurt Vonnegut.)

Other Significant Buildings

Two different homes once stood on the Crown Hill grounds, each constructed as a residence for the superintendent and his family. The first of these was erected in 1869 and stood until 1917; the second, built-in 1914, was removed in 1950. Other dwellings, including employee quarters, barns, stables, and shops, were built throughout the cemetery grounds. Today only the Service Yard, constructed in the early 1920s, remains. Other major structures on the grounds include the Crown Hill Mausoleum (1949), the current Administration Building (1969), the Crown Hill Funeral Home (1993), 58 private mausoleums, and multiple garden crypt buildings (located on the north and south grounds), including the ‘Field of Valor,’ dedicated on Veteran’s Day 2004 for military entombments and burials. On Veterans Day 2005 an Eternal Flame has dedicated the Field of Valor to honor all who have served. A few artworks include three Greek Goddess statues (the 1960s) that once stood atop the Marion County Courthouse in downtown Indianapolis, an Equatorial Sundial (1987) created by David L. Rodgers, and the Enkema Fountain (1989).

Brick and Wrought Iron Fence

A brick and wrought iron fence, begun in 1914 and completed in the late 1930s, surrounds three sides of the south grounds as well as the southernmost end of the north grounds–both areas being separated by 38th Street. George E. Kessler designed this fence, which underwent restoration from 1985 to 1992. In 1925 a bridge/subway was constructed beneath 38th Street (formerly Maple Road) so that cemetery visitors could access both sides of the cemetery without leaving the grounds.

Tomb Stones Marking and Famous People Buried

Tombstones have history and the symbols engraved on the tombstones have meaning. Most cemeterieshasBrick have the majority of the same markings and you will see the markings and what theyhave stand for as I further explain. The markings are normally exist across the nation due to the meaning oneach marking carries.

What can you learn from a tombstone? Early tombstones were often flat, either upright on a block or in-ground, plain rectangles with a rounded top. There might be a date of birth and/or the age at the time of death. There might be further information about relationships within the family.

Why are there recurrent carvings seen on tombstones in every cemetery? What is the meaning of these carvingsperson’s? Interpretation varies depending on the persons faith or belief. One of the most common symbols is the draped urn. The urn is an ancient symbol of death or mortality. The drapes (also called a curtain or veil) can mean sorrow or passage from one existence to another. Draped urns are found in most cemeteries. The one on the right is from St. Thomas Catholic Cemetery and the one on the left is in Forest Hill Cemetery. It also has a hand pointing up and roses symbolizing life after death and sorrow. Hands are another frequently seen symbols that can have different meanings depending on their position. Two hands in prayer symbolize devotion. One hand may symbolize the hand of God. One hand with one finger pointing up symbolizing the reward of the righteous or confirmation of life after death is seen quite frequently.

Clasped hands are another popular symbol. If the cuffs match it is a handshake of farewell to earthly existence. If the cuffs are male and female it indicates hands clasped in death as in life or eternal devotion. Angels symbolize rebirth or a messenger of God, a guardian. They may be flying, young, crossbar, or sorrowful looking. They are seen on children’s and adult’s graves including very old stones and modern ones. The cross symbolizes salvation. The Christian cross has one cross bar while the Eastern Orthodox has three, two straight and one at an angle. Celtic crosses have multiple carvings. Crosses may be combined with other symbols as is the one in our cemetery. Usually, an open Biblehave is a symbol of wisdom and resurrection. Flowers symbolize the brevity of life and sorrow. Certain flowers symbolize emotions. Lilies are a symbol of resurrection or purity. Roses indicate condolence or sorrow. Poppies are symbolic of sleep and therefore death.

  • An ivy vine symbolizes abiding memory and friendship.
  • The laurel branch symbolizes victory or glory.

Tree trunks with their cut-off limbs symbolize being cut off in the prime of life. There are very realistic stones with added carved symbols. The lamb symbolizes innocence, meekness and sacrifice and is used on children’s tombstones. The lamb tombstone in our ‘cemetery’ is in Forest Hill Cemetery. The lamb may stand alone or be carved into the stone.

  • Birds symbolize the soul. A flying bird symbolizes the flight of the soul back to God.
  • Some people include a statue or carving of a favorite pet or some other animal they care about.

The architectural and other features familiar to all are among the most popular motifs seen on tombstones such as columns, temples, obelisks, pyramids, sarcophagus, acanthus leaf, and arches.

Portraits of the deceased may be incorporated into the tombstone in several ways. A small oval covered with glass is used to include an actual photograph, a likeness may be carved directly into the stone, and a bas relief plaque may be attached and photographs in glass ovals. Also, members of fraternal organizations often include symbols on their graves. The cause of death may be carved into the tombstone as well. Military service may be indicated on a traditional tombstone as well as poem poemscarvingspersons that has been written by a loved one or written for publication. New technology allows for much more detail to be added to a tombstone. Rather than being carved in bas relief or standing statues, details can be etched directly into the stones and color can be added.

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Visit Crown Hill Cemetary. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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