Spotlight: Little Italy and Lake View Cemetery

September 19, 2017
Little Italy and Lake View Cemetery

Celebrating Life and the Afterlife


If you’re looking for an example of Cleveland’s defining characteristic of irreverent (or perhaps unintentional) humor, you’ll find it in an unlikely place near Little Italy: The Lake View Cemetery.

A published brochure describes the cemetery as a celebration of life, “and of course afterlife,” while the website advertises, “Grounds for Life – Start Planning.” This dichotomy makes Lake View the perfect place to visit in October with Halloween on the horizon.

The Lake View Cemetery was founded in 1869 when Italian stonemasons were brought in to create the architecture and grounds in the garden cemetery movement style, which was popular in Europe at the time. They sought to create a park-like setting in an otherwise urban environment.

These same Italian stonemasons settled “Little Italy” along the nearby Murray Hill, which today draws from its ethnic heritage to be one of the most enduring neighborhoods in the Cleveland area attracting shoppers, diners, and festivalgoers.

Interestingly, the neighborhood was not dubbed “Little Italy” so much because of its size compared to the country of Italy, but because a second, “Big Italy,” neighborhood already existed in the Woodland Ave./Central Market area.

Today, many visitors make a visit to Little Italy and the nearby Lake View Cemetery as a combined excursion. They wander the burial grounds and gardens, paying respect both to Cleveland luminaries such as John D. Rockefeller, as well as to family, friends, and those who have lived, loved, worked, served, and built Cleveland over the last 150 years.

Perhaps most significantly, Lake View Cemetery is home to the stunning Garfield Monument (pro tip: walk inside to see President Garfield’s casket, draped with an American Flag, and the only presidential casket on full display). The remains of the president's wife, daughter and son-in-law are also in the crypt. After paying reverence to the former president, many visitors make their way to the roof of the monument, which provides stunning views of the Cleveland skyline, and on a clear day, a view of 40 miles of the Lake Erie shore.

After their “momento mori,” visitors can easily find their way to the Little Italy neighborhood where the energy and vitality stands in stark contrast to a visit to the cemetery. Here, artisans, boutiques, festivals, churches, and some of the finest and oldest Italian restaurants in the Cleveland area serve to nourish the mind, soul, and body. Destinations like Mama Santa’s, Corbo’s, Presti’s Bakery and La Dolce Vita are among local favorites. The annual Feast of the Assumption has also been a traditional gathering for locals, families, friends, and visitors for 119 years (yes, the festival dates back to 1898).

Before you go, make sure to check out the Lake View Cemetery website for an updated list of events. The fall schedule features a tour of “Coppers, Mobsters, and Robbers” (Elliot Ness is a permanent resident of Lake View), a 5K “Run Through History,” and a “Grand Architecture of Sorrow” tour.

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