Seth Walsh and Erin Hinson have been asking people, “What’s your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati?” Whatever the answer is, they do. This is one of their adventures.
Spring Grove Cemetery offers a beautiful, peaceful environment behind its gates and stone walls. Where trains once passed now lies the second-largest cemetery in the United States, laced with history and stories of Cincinnati. It’s a great place to spend the afternoon and #UnlockCincinnati.
Erin: Seth’s mom loves to visit cemeteries. Every time she would visit, she would point out a cemetery on the hillside that she thought was beautiful and wanted to see. Seth would respond that it was Spring Grove Cemetery and promise that we would visit in the future.
His parents recently visited again and we decided finally to take them to Spring Grove. It turned out not to be the cemetery his mom always pointed out. Whoops.
Seth: You can get to Spring Grove Cemetery off of Spring Grove Avenue. It’s hard to miss. The cemetery is well maintained. It’s easy to navigate the winding roads that crisscross the cemetery, using the maps and location markers that line the road.
Walking into the cemetery is the closest thing you will find to taking a walk through history. Famous people whose bodies are interred there include former chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, founders of companies such as Kroger and Procter & Gamble, hundreds of Civil War soldiers and everyday people. It is fascinating to walk among their graves and imagine their lives. We recommend driving until you find a beautiful spot in the cemetery, then stopping. There are no bad places to explore the cemetery’s beautifully kept gravesites and the natural scenery of its rolling hills.
Erin: Every cemetery is filled with history, but Spring Grove seems packed with more than its fair share! It’s a National Historic Landmark. A tour guide told us that during a cholera epidemic, a group of wealthy individuals came together to form the grounds to bury their loved ones above the basin. The cemetery was designed by the Cincinnati Horticultural Society Cemetery Association, influenced by rural cemeteries in Paris and Massachusetts. That’s a pretty diverse background!
I learned during our trip that, back in the Victorian days, cemeteries were used as public parks. Families would come to cemeteries and make a day out of it -- playing, picnicking and exploring. You can easily imagine that happening today in Spring Grove Cemetery.
Seth: We stopped our car next to a large obelisk that denoted a family lot. As we explored, it turned out to be for the Kroger family. Yes, the family that began Kroger Co. It was incredible to pay respects to a family that has built one of the biggest, most successful companies in Cincinnati.
It was an emotionally exhausting visit as we walked among the graves of children who had died at age 2 and people who had outlived their partners by 50 years. Yet, beauty surrounded us no matter where we stepped. It was an incredibly moving experience.
While researching this post, I discovered countless gravesites that I had no idea were at Spring Grove and that I want to return to visit. Thankfully, there are tours available at Spring Grove so you can learn the intimate history of the cemetery and those who are buried there.
Why go: Spring Grove Cemetery has a lot to offer. It’s worth going to see the well-kept grounds and to be a part of the history of our city and nation. The architecture of the mausoleums and chapels is beautiful and cannot be adequately described unless you see them in person. And a group of scientists just ranked it as one of the places to visit on an optimal road trip across the United States.
Spring Grove Cemetery
4521 Spring Grove Ave., Winton Place
Time commitment: 1-3 hours
Pair it with: The Gaslight District
We invite you to follow this journey in real time online at www.unlockcincinnati.org, on Twitter (@UnlockThe513, @SethTWalsh and @erinhinson2), Instagram (@sethtwalsh and @erinhinson2) and Facebook, or by following #UnlockCincinnati. Or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.