It seemed odd at first when I sat down to do my Out ‘n’ About on Cave Hill Cemetery. With all do respect, I think we can all agree that no one there is necessarily the life of the party. Fast forward to this week, and the loss of a dear friend’s father made this week’s column all the more relevant.
Unfortunately, having been to a number of funerals in my day, as weird as it sounds, the most memorable one just so happened to be at Cave Hill. The grounds somehow have a way of bringing beauty to sorrow. And while most cemeteries seem impersonal and cold, this one gives you a warm feeling (well, as much as being at a cemetery can). After spending leisure time there, I learned that Cave Hill was indeed supposed to do just that.
Chartered in 1848, Cave Hill is one of the most historic and revered locales in our own backyard. It displays a Victorian elegance with natural settings for burials. As personal wealth increased, the garden cemetery became the repository of symbols of success in the form of truly monumental art.
No longer were shabby plots and confined yards good enough for deceased loved ones. Instead, picturesque natural landscapes were worthy gathering sites to contemplate the collective accomplishments of its inhabitants. And when you put it like that, it makes everything a bit less scary.
The land that once was used as a rural farm, soon was transformed into one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Louisville.
Now, thanks to the Cave Hill Heritage Foundation, you don’t have to wait for an untimely death to experience this lively history. From now through October, you can experience a variety of different tours all led by local historians.
The first one up is led by local architect and historian, Steve Wiser. Uncover the history of Cave Hill on the Historical Walking Tour that features a 1 1/2 hour walk through roadways and sections of the cemetery.
For the Civil War buff in your group, there is the Civil War Walking Tour, led by Civil War author, Bryan S. Bush.
Bush will lead discuss soldiers and military and civilian leaders from Louisville who contributed and influenced the outcome of the Civil War such as Union Maj. Gen. Lovell Rousseau, Joshua and James Speed, Confederate Lt. John B. Castleman and many others.
Together, J. Michael Higgs, Cave Hill Heritage Foundation coordinator, and Steve Wiser, will lead the twilight tours of the cemetery. A two-hour journey through the meandering roadways of the entire cemetery will reveal information about the history of the cemetery, its residents and the works of art presented through the monuments. Cemetery topography, botanical highlights and connections between the cemetery and state, local and national history also will be discussed.
Whether you are drawn to Cave Hill for the beauty, history or unfortunate circumstance of a funeral, it is a place of refuge for some and can elicit feelings of spiritual elevation and tangible roots for you to come back to at any given moment.
For more information regarding tours, call 502.451.5630 or visit www.cavehillcemetery.com.
Historic Cave Hill Cemetery is located at 701 Baxter Ave.
Tour Dates & Times
Historical Walking Tour: May 1, May 22, Sept. 25 and Oct. 9. All tours take place on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Cost is $15 per person.
Civil War Walking Tour
9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. Cost is $15 per person.
Twilight Driving Tour
May 15, June 19, July 16, Aug. 13, Sept. 11, Oct. 9 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $35 per person.
Famous Cavehill Residents
As the English poet John Keats (1795-1821) lay dying and destitute, his brother George Keats (1797-1841) had his funds tied up in Louisville investments. George made a fortune in lumber, shipping, flour and real estate only to lose it, too. He was reinterred in 1879, Section O, Lot 73.
Category: Out & About
About the Author (Author Profile)
Voice-Tribune Staff Writer Lauren DePaso enjoys being a tourist in her own city, exploring the nightlife and cheering on the Cards. A Louisville native, she currently resides in St. Matthews.