Open for (history) business: Lake View Cemetery landmarks are ready for visitors this summer

Two Lake View Cemetery landmarks are ready for their closeups amid a receding pandemic and the restoration of one of the attractions in question.

Beginning this coming Memorial Day, May 31, visitors will be welcomed back to the reopened James A. Garfield Memorial and Wade Memorial Chapel, two treasured Cleveland mainstays that have been shuttered since the start of the virus crisis.

Katharine Goss, president and CEO of the Lake View Cemetery Association“This has been in the offing for a while, even before the new CDC mask guidelines,” says
Katharine Goss, president and CEO of the Lake View Cemetery Association. “It doesn’t do us any good to have these beautiful buildings if nobody gets to see them. Our guides have been asking when they can come back because they’ve all been vaccinated. We haven’t had to do any re-staffing.”

Upon opening next week, timed tours will be available free of charge for 12 visitors per session. Masks will be required indoors, with guides available to discuss the beauty and significance of the two historic landmarks. Ongoing renovations of the Garfield memorial will limit visitors to the building’s lobby, rotunda, and crypt levels.

After May 31, hours of operation are planned for Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those parameters could change, in either direction, based on future COVID-19 case numbers. Ideally, Goss says there will come a time later this year when the landmarks are available to the public seven days a week.

“Things could go either way,” she says. “Right now, we’re being conservative and following what University Circle Inc. is recommending.”

Lake View officials began discussing the summer season in January, basing a potential relaunch on safety parameters set by nearby museums and other spaces. Like its University Circle brethren, the cemetery is remaining cautious in how it handles guests at the reopened monuments.

“Our staff is going to see a couple of hundred visitors daily, so how do we manage that?” says Goss. “We’re following suit with other institutions at University Circle. We’re also paying attention to how parks are handling visitors this summer. Most of our activity is outdoors, but we do have these interior spaces people want to visit.”

James A. Garfield MemorialWhile tours will be limited starting out, Lake View administrators will reassess tour dates and times should virus cases continue to decline. Before the season ends on October 31, Goss anticipates excited (but respectful) groups of history buffs, art lovers, and people watchers to descend upon the well-loved landmarks.
The Garfield monument—which initially opened on Memorial Day in 1890—is undergoing a makeover that includes restoration and repair of exterior stonework. Cleaning on the memorial’s 180-foot-high tower has revealed a light beige sandstone color previously obscured by decades of steel mill pollution.

In addition to the remains of President James A. Garfield, the monument features a sculpture of the nation’s 20th president, as well as red granite columns, a golden mosaic dome and stained-glass windows. The Hubbell and Benes-designed Wade chapel, meanwhile, offers a shimmering expanse of mosaic glass designed by Louis C. Tiffany himself.

Though tours are not yet back to full capacity, Goss is happy to bring Clevelanders a little slice of normalcy this summer.

“Cleveland is a lively, vibrant place to live, and these pieces are real attractions,” says Goss. “The (memorials) are a hard place to resist if you’re a history or art buff.”

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
Signup for Email Alerts