history banner

Founded by a group of leading Ann Arbor businessmen and University of Michigan professors in 1857 to serve as a community burial ground, Forest Hill Cemetery is one of Ann Arbor’s finest landmarks. It is organized as a private, non-profit corporation.

The Cemetery’s cut field-stone gatehouse and sexton’s house have been designated Historic Buildings by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission. James Morwick built the Gothic stone entrance—the gateway bell was originally rung for funerals. The stone house and office were added in 1874, designed by Gordon W. Lloyd, an architect of English origin who was the preeminent architect of Gothic Revival churches and cathedrals in the Midwest in the 1860s and 1870s. Lloyd was the architect of St. Andrews Episcopal Church and the Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, as well as Central United Methodist Church and the David Whitney House (currently “The Whitney” restaurant) in Detroit.

Forest Hill Cemetery is a significant cultural landscape. The design of Forest Hill is in the Romantic ‘rural’ cemetery tradition, popularized in the 19th Century. The belief was that burying and commemorating the dead was best done in a tranquil and beautiful natural setting away from the center of town. The first and most well known American rural cemetery was Mount Auburn in Boston, founded in 1831 and widely imitated.

(Indeed many of the original avenues and paths in Forest Hill Cemetery were named after those of Mount Auburn). The popularity of these rural cemeteries led, in turn, to the establishment of America’s public parks. The original 1858 map of Forest Hill was created by Colonel J.L. Glenn, a civil engineer from Niles, Michigan who also designed Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti. Earlier in his career Glenn surveyed and laid out the plan for the new city of Lansing, oversaw the building of the State House, and served as state engineer for the Sault Ste. Marie Canal.

The natural beauty of Forest Hill Cemetery is due in large part to its abundance of trees. A 1998 inventory of the Cemetery’s woody plants identified a total of over 1,800 trees and large shrubs representing 64 different species growing in the Cemetery’s 65 acres of gardens. The forest includes stately oaks and hickories that were growing long before Ann Arbor was founded, as well as many fine sugar maples.

Many leading citizens of Ann Arbor and distinguished members of the University of Michigan community are laid to rest in Forest Hill. The first permanent interment was Benajah Ticknor (d.1858), the US naval surgeon originally from Connecticut who built the Cobblestone Farm house. The families of Ann Arbor founder John Allen and co-founder Elisha Walker Rumsey are buried here. So are Michigan’s first state supreme court justice William Asa Fletcher and famous U-M football coaches Fielding H. Yost and Bo Schembechler.

—History Researched and Prepared by Jeanne Kin