Eastern Cemetery

Historical marker #2532 commemorates the history and people of Eastern Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Louisville.

It was first documented as a burial ground in the 1840s before it was formally incorporated by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1854. From 15 acres, it doubled to more than 30 in the next twenty years. The wake house designed by the firm of Charles Clarke & Arthur Loomis was constructed in 1891 and reflected the increasing professionalization of mortuary services and the transition away from using the home as a site for viewing and toward cemetery viewings. The crematorium built in 1935 was the first in Kentucky and the chimney is still a part of the red building at the front of the cemetery. The modern crematory at the back of the cemetery was built in 1957. The cemetery was offically abandoned in 1989 after criminal overburial was exposed. This practice, in which graves were resold and reused again and again, had gone on for years and resulted in more than 100,000 people being buried in approximately 30,000 graves.

Eastern Cemetery is the final resting place of a diverse group of Kentuckians from a variety of racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. It also holds the remains of veterans of every American war from the Mexican-American War to Vietnam. A stroll through the cemetery presents a range of commemorative pieces marking the lives of folks from the famous, like boxer Rudell Stitch who inspired Muhammad Ali, to the obscure, like the indigent Louisvillians buried toward the back.

Given the grim history of overburial, Eastern Cemetery fell into disrepair after it was abandoned in 1989. In the following decades, the cemetery was almost unrecognizable as nature slowly took back the plots and created a stark contrast between the overgrown Eastern and the pristinely manicured Cave Hill Cemetery next door. Seeing a need, the Friends of Eastern Cemetery formed as a non-profit organization to restore the cemetery. Through the dedication of these Friends since 2013, Eastern has been substantially restored. Although there is always work to do, the Friends of Eastern Cemetery have already made tremendous strides toward restoring the dignity of the cemetery and the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

The marker was dedicated on April 8, 2018. The event was well attended and included remarks from Dr. Andrew Patrick of the Kentucky Historical Society, Louisville Metro Councilman S. Brandon Coan and Andy Harpole, the President of the Friends of Eastern Cemetery. It also featured a presentation of colors and pledge of allegiance led by the Gov. Isaac Shelby Chapter of the Kentucky Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. After the dedication, the Friends treated their guests to a reception and a tour of the cemetery.

The marker reads:

Resting place of diverse races,
nationalities, veterans (Mexican
War to Vietnam War). 1st black KY
legislator Charles Anderson Jr;
boxer Rudell Stitch; Mayor Philip
Tomppert; William J. Simmons of
Simmons College of KY; educator
Albert E. Meyzeek; Bishop Henry
Bascom; Russell Neighborhood’s
Washington Spradling.

15 acres incorporated in 1854 for
Methodist Episcopal Church. By
1872 it doubled in size. Clarke &
Loomis designed wake house 1891.
Eastern Cemetery Corp. built 1st
crematorium in KY 1935. Modern
building erected 1957. Cemetery
abandoned 1989 when overburial
exposed. Investigators say about
100,000 people in 30,000 graves.