160th Anniversary

Lexington Herald-Leader 160th Anniversary Special Section

The Lexington Cemetery is more than a suitable place for burials. Many people consider the historic grounds to be beautiful in their own right. The horticulturists and groundskeepers charged with care of the property take seriously the responsibility of maintaining the natural beauty they inherited and work to enhance its sense of serenity through all seasons. To ensure enjoyment of this artistic-like beauty of nature in this unique city setting, sixty percent of the price of burial sites is invested for perpetual care. It is just one part of the commitment by The Lexington Cemetery to assure the community that its grounds will be as beautiful and affordable in the future as they are today.

In 1848, Lexingtonians did not have a suitable sacred place to bury their dead. At a time when Lexington was experiencing rapid growth, the dead were either buried in family plots, crowded church graveyards, or on “First Hill,” the burial ground of Lexington pioneers. These traditional graveyards did not have enough capacity to support future burials and some of the graveyards were a menace to public health that caused contamination of wells and springs.

Foreseeing the need for a more practical rural cemetery, some of the most prominent Lexington citizens obtained an act incorporating the Lexington Cemetery Company as a non-profit organization, approved February 5,1848 by the Kentucky General Assembly. This act authorized the corporation to establish a rural or garden cemetery (located away from the built-up area of town) and to provide for the perpetual care of grounds and graves.

The cemetery corporation sold its first lot on August 18, 1849, to A. B. Colwell, a community businessman who bought the lot for Robert S. Boyd, a merchant tailor and Colwell's partner. Mr. Boyd died from cholera in June 1849. He was buried in the Episcopal Cemetery until his re-interment with his infant son in The Lexington Cemetery on October 2, 1849. Many years later, The Lexington Cemetery erected a monument to commemorate the first burial in the garden cemetery.

The Lexington Cemetery continues to honor the 1848 commitment of its founders and is a vital resource to the people of this area. It is the community burial grounds, a nationally recognized arboretum and a repository of genealogical records with information about people who previously contributed to the growth and prosperity of Central Kentucky.

With almost 68,000 interments, people from all walks of life are memorialized in The Lexington Cemetery, including U.S. Senator Henry Clay, University of Kentucky Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp, U.S. Vice President John Breckinridge and Dr. Thomas D. Clark. Due to the planning and stewardship of the trustees, management and workers, there will be space available for the people of Central Kentucky to be laid to rest in this garden of community history for the next 100 years.

Since 1849, The Lexington Cemetery has offered traditional in-ground burial services, but management has made many changes over the years to adapt to the needs and wants of the community.

In addition to traditional in-ground burial with above ground monuments, The Lexington Cemetery has provided for entombment in mausoleums and on-grounds cremation services with memorialization in niches and a scattering garden for several decades.

Throughout its history, individuals and organizations have been afforded the opportunity to select and develop special sections of the cemetery for lakefront lots, family and religious lots, to erect magnificent monuments and mausoleums, use flush-to-the ground markers, and traditional and artistic upright monuments.

The first mausoleum was erected in 1974, under the direction of Robert Wachs, who was the fourth general manager of The Lexington Cemetery. The mausoleum was named the Bell Mausoleum in honor of Charles S. Bell, the first superintendent of The Lexington Cemetery who had the vision for laying out the grounds. Mr. Bell was assisted in implementing his vision for laying out the grounds by James Nichol, who became the second superintendent upon the death of Mr. Bell.

Also in 1978, The Lexington Crematory was established on the grounds and making it the first cremation retort in Central Kentucky. The growing popularity of cremation has necessitated installation of two additional retorts, a chapel and expansion of memorialization options including columbarium niches, niche benches and boulders (receptacles for cremation urns).

In 1997, under the management of the fifth general manager, Dan Scalf, The Lexington Cemetery dedicated Phase II of The Lexington Mausoleum with both interior and exterior crypts (receptacles for caskets) and columbarium niches.

To commemorate the 160th year of service to the community, ground breaking for Phase III of The Lexington Mausoleum will signify the continuing commitment of The Lexington Cemetery to serve the community by providing for future generations of Lexingtonians.

Throughout its history, visitors have sought out The Lexington Cemetery from far and near for its beautiful serene environment. Central Kentuckians have come to enjoy the three lakes with their peaceful fountains, Weeping Willow trees and ducks, as well as the formal flower gardens and other horticultural treasures that can be found in the nationally acclaimed arboretum. Situated on 170 acres of land, The Lexington Cemetery has over 200 species of trees including beautiful flowering dogwoods, crab apples,
ornamental magnolias and pink weeping cherries. Because of the careful planning of cemetery trustees, general managers and Miles Penn, the current cemetery horticulturalist, visitors can find numerous gardens of annuals and perennials that are as beautiful today as they were when the gardens were established in 1963 under the direction of Richard Allison, the third cemetery general manager.

Some original trees that grew in the rural woods before the establishment of the cemetery still stand today. However, due to infestations, diseases, decay, erosion and natural disasters of high winds, lightening and ice storms, The Lexington Cemetery has had to regularly prune and replace trees and shrubs throughout its history to maintain the beauty of the grounds. Informational and educational public presentations are held annually to allow the cemetery staff to share the beauty and history of the grounds with the community.

In 2003, The Lexington Cemetery experienced the most devastating natural disaster in its history when an ice storm struck a swath of destruction through Central Kentucky. Like other parts of Lexington, the cemetery looked similar in appearance to a war zone. Many trees were uprooted and limbs were broken.The damage was so severe that the cemetery was temporarily closed to visitors. Debris needed be cleared quickly for the safety of staff and to enable regular burial and cremation services. Although this natural disaster occurred just 6 years ago, the cemetery is as beautiful today as it was prior to the Ice Storm of 2003

Kentucky's Historian Laureate, author of “History of Kentucky” and “Encyclopedia of Kentucky”

The classic gateway to The Lexington Cemetery opens into a historically significant community of the past. It was near this spot in July 1775 that a small band of explorer-hunters from FortHarrod KY came to rest. They had heard about an American battle against the British Army in LexingtonMA, and in honor of that early victory of the Revolutionary War gave the name to this spot of ground in the wilderness. Little did they know that three-quarters of a century later the same wooded area would become the resting ground of Revolutionary War soldiers and pioneering families of the first stage of the western movement of the new United States of America. Alongside the bronze marker which commemorates the first viewing of the future site of the city of Lexington is its garden of history in the community burial grounds.

To learn more, the full version of "AHistory ofThe Lexington Cemetery," by Burton Milward with introduction by Thomas D. Clark is now available on The Lexington Cemetery Website at www.lexcem.org.

In an effort to meet the growing demand for cremation and memorialization services in Central Kentucky, The Lexington Cemetery has broken ground on Phase III of the Lexington Mausoleum.

Two new niche rooms are being built and each will contain 500 niches for placing one or two urns containing cremated remains. An art glass window will grace each beautifully decorated room and will include both glass and bronze fronted niche covers. The rooms can also serve as chapels for small family services, bringing the total number of these intimate settings to four, on the cemetery grounds. The expansion is expected to be completed in the next few months.

“For families who choose memorialization after cremation, these niche rooms will offer a peaceful and comforting location in The Lexington Cemetery,” said Dan Scalf, President and General Manager.

“Our expansion is designed so we can continue to meet the needs of the public as the cremation trend continues to grow.”

The Lexington Mausoleum is a magnificent edifice of granite and marble featuring both the beauty of the outdoors and comfort of the indoors for year-round visitation. When completed in 1982, The Lexington Mausoleum contained 660 crypts and 80 niches. In 1997, Phase II added 762 crypts and 140 niches. The current project will bring the total number of niche spaces to 1,220.

“We are seeing an increased interest in cremation and memorialization although the preference for traditional ground burial remains strong,” Scalf said. “As more families relocate to this area, from across the nation and around the world, where cremation is the preferred disposition method, the demand increases. We strive to provide these needed services with impeccable care and state-of-the-art facilities.”

Those who choose to have cremated remains memorialization in The Lexington Mausoleum have the additional options of the columbarium niches located in the Victorian building near the main entrance, a niche bench, a niche boulder, burial in a traditional family lot or co-mingling in the Scattering Garden.

“A permanent location for cremated remains allows current family and friends, along with future generations, a place where they may visit and commemorate the life of an individual,” said Mark Durbin, Assistant General Manager and an active member of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

“The Lexington Cemetery provides that permanent location for solace and reflection.”

The Lexington Crematory, with its three cremation chambers, is located on The Lexington Cemetery grounds. The facility also houses a chapel, designed and decorated, to offer comfort to family and friends during the cremation process and provide a viewing area, if desired, for families to fulfill their religious beliefs. The Lexington Crematory is state licensed and Cremation Association of North America (CANA) certified.

The operators are trained and certified according to the law of Kentucky. In Kentucky, state law requires that the body of the deceased must be removed from the place of death by a licensed funeral director for cremation. The Lexington Cemetery works with funeral directors in the same manner it would if the deceased were to be buried in a lot or entombed in a mausoleum on the grounds.

“The two independent agencies, working together in obtaining the proper credentials and legal documentation, insure the utmost care and handling of the deceased,” Scalf said. “This is an important for the family and provides checks and balances before the permanent process of cremation begins.”

Lexington Herald-Leader 160th Anniversary Special Section