It was just a decade after its founding that Crown Hill built one of its most magnificent structures, the Gothic Chapel (1875), at a cost of just under $40,000. This building stands as a remarkable example of Gothic architecture and was the first of a number of historic structures and landmarks to be erected over the next 135+ years, all which stand alongside generations of monuments to human achievement and epitaphs of remembrance. You can find these structures on this Google Map of Crown Hill (use satellite mode). Below are a few facts about each one.
The Gothic Chapel (1875)
Originally named the Gothic Vault, this limestone structure was designed by D.H. Bohlen and constructed by Peter Routiers in 1875 at a cost of $38,922.25. It served as a temporary place of entombment for up to 96 remains in the event of delayed burial, and an alternate venue for funeral services in poor weather. The Vault held the body of Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley for over a year after his death on July 22, 1916, while those in charge of his affairs debated his proper place of interment. When that debate was resolved, Riley was buried on the summit of the Crown in October 1917. First restored in 1971, and later in 2004-05, the Gothic Chapel hosts public and private events including lectures, tours, funerals, memorial services, weddings, concerts, and dinners. See current chapel photos here. For more information on the Gothic Chapel, please read our documents "Gothic Chapel History" and "Gothic Chapel Organ."
Waiting Station and Gothic Gate (1885)
Crown Hill Cemetery's original mail entrance stood on what is now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. Built by John Pattison at a cost of $2,300, it consisted of a main central gate flanked by two narrower gates. It was opened on July 30, 1864, replaced in 1900, and razed in 1901. Its replacement, which stood at the southwest corner of the cemetery, featured a Bedford limestone archway designed by Indianapolis architect Herbert Foltz. This entrance was closed in 1965 and demolished the following year.
The current main entrance to the Crown Hill's South Grounds is located at the intersection of 34th Street and Boulevard Place. In Crown Hill's early days, 34th Street was a tree-shaded lane connecting the cemetery to the Westfield Pike (now Illinois Street). Today's main entrance was designed by Indianapolis architect Adolph Scherer and completed just in time for the funeral procession of Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks on November 30, 1885. It includes a triple-arched stone gate and the Waiting Station, which replaced a small caretaker's cottage built in 1864. Originally the cemetery's administrative office, the Waiting Station is a stone-trimmed brick structure with decorative encased tile. Its interior is decorated with intricately carved oak and cherry woodwork, and features wooden venetian blinds, among the first installed in the United States.
Historic Landmarks of Indiana restored the Waiting Station between 1970 and 1971, after which it served as their offices until 1990. The Life Center, a grief counseling organization, used it as a headquarters in the early 1900s. By 1996, the Waiting Station had been returned to Crown Hill's use. It underwent renewed restoration in 2001.
Next to the main entrance archway stands a sentry house, designed by the architectural firm of Vonnegut and Bohn and added in 1904. Its second floor originally included a residential area.
Perimeter Fence (1914)
Crown Hill's original fence was built of wood. Dr. John M. Kitchen, one of the founding members of the Cemetery's governing Board of Corporators, ventured to Tennessee to select the timber for its construction. While the fence was durable, it was more serviceable then decorative. By 1913, the Corporators had decided to replace it with something more attractive.
Architect George Kessler designed its replacement in 1914. Construction began that same year and was completed in the last 1930s.
The main support pillars, located at entryways and corners, stand 12-feet tall. Between them, 25-foot-wide sections of brick courses topped in concrete act as support for wrought iron fencing. The entire structure, which stands on a concrete base four feet in thickness, frames 75 percent of the South Grounds, extending for approximately three miles. A major restoration of the fence was undertaken between 1985 and 1992.
Service Yard, Barns, and Workshops (1920s)
Crown Hill began allowing automobiles on its ground on November 7, 1912, but the cemetery did not purchase one for its own use until April 1918. It was not until February 7, 1933, that the last workhorse in the cemetery stables was sold. Horses still make an occasional appearance on the Crown Hill grounds in conjunction with memorial ceremonies.
Built of brick and stone, the numerous wrought iron gates, the Service Yard, Barns, and Workshops continue to function as working spaces, their appearance all but unchanged over time.
The Indianapolis firm of Latham and Walters was chosen to construct these facilities in the early 1920s. Along with general-purpose working areas, they housed the Crown Hill workhorses and provided space for a blacksmith's shop.
The Subway / Underpass (1925)
Crown Hill had begun to expand onto the north side of Maple Road (now 38th Street) before the close of the 19th century. In 1925, work began on the Subway. This combination of bridge and underpass replaced a section of 38th Street at the center point of the northern edge of the cemetery's South Grounds, allowing traffic to pass under the bridge to the new North Grounds without the need to drive out of the cemetery. Designed by the architectural firm of D. A. Bohlen and Son and constructed by Edward Strathmann and Company, the project was completed in 1927 at a cost of $170,000.
The Crown Hill Mausoleum (1951)
Until the mid-20th century, families who preferred above-ground entombment at Crown Hill had to bear the considerable cost of constructing a private mausoleum. Fifty-six of these late-19th and early-20th-century structures stand on Crown Hill's South Grounds, most featuring stained glass windows, ornamental stonework, and elaborate bronze and wrought iron doors. The most recent, or 57th, private family mausoleum was built by the Bane family at the end of the 20th century. The cost to build one of these mausoleums today, with the combination of art and architecture, would rival that of a modern residence.
To make mausoleum entombment available to families for whom the expense of a private facility would be prohibitive, Crown Hill commissioned the architectural firm of D.A. Bohlen & Son to design a community-wide resource. Built on the cemetery's North Grounds and dedicated in 1951, the Crown Hill Mausoleum took two and a half years to build. Its Bedford limestone exterior gives way to a marble-lined interior constructed of various types of domestic and imported stone. The North Building, which was featured on the original 1948 plan, was built ten years after the Main Building was completed. The mausoleum includes crypts fro side-by-side or end-to-end interment of caskets, as well as columbarium niches to enshrine cremation urns.
On the upper level of the Crown Hill Mausoleum is the Peace Chapel, which features the stained glass artistry of the Eli Lilly Family Memorial window, designed by Henry Lee Willett. The Peace Chapel hosts funeral and memorial services. Recent stained glass panels were installed on the upper floor of the North Building and were memorial gifts to Crown Hill from Rachel H. Newman and Ada Adair.
The Administration Building (1968)
Crown Hill Cemetery has had four administrative office buildings since its dedication in 1864. The first, which was built by Peter Routiers, was destroyed by fire in 1876. The second stood near the original main entrance on what is now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. In 1885, it was replaced by the Waiting Station just inside the current main entrance at Boulevard Place and 34th Street.
The current facility stands just inside the Clarendon Road entrance to the North Grounds. Its construction began in July 1968 and was completed the following year. The Crown Hill Funeral Home, an extension onto the northern end of the Administration Building, was dedicated in the spring of 1993. This beautiful facility allows families to have their loved ones' funeral and burial in one location. A large extension to the Funeral Home will be completed in 2011.
Private Family Mausoleums
Beginning with the construction of the Caleb Blood Smith private family mausoleum in 1864, there have been fifty-seven of these beautiful structures erected at Crown Hill. The last two were built in 1970 and 1989 by the Voight family and Bane family respectively.
The private mausoleum for Caleb Blood Smith is thought to be the first such structure erected in Marion County. Mr. Smith served in President Lincoln's cabinet as Secretary of the Interior. Upon his death in January 1864 he was buried at Greenlawn Cemetery and was later moved to the City Cemetery in Connersville, IN, but that has never been confirmed. Records do indicate that his wife, daughter, and other relatives are entombed in his mausoleum.
Private Family mausoleums contain crypts or niches and many have stained glass windows. The cost to build one today would probably be more than to build a house. Many are quite ornate inside and out and some feature beautiful bronze doors (Holcomb, Sec. 73) and statuary (Marott lions, Sec. 51). These are just two examples; below is a map showing the location of all fifty-seven. The key on the following page indicates the year they were built and their section location. The mausoleum number corresponds to the number on the map.
The National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress) has data, drawings, and photographs on the following historic structures:
Waiting Station (built in 1885 and noted as the Crown Hill Cemetery Office Building)
34th Street Gate (built in 1885 and noted as the Crown Hill Cemetery Gateway)
Gothic Chapel (built in 1875 and noted as the Crown Hill Cemetery Chapel and Vault)