Forest Home Cemetery - The Resting Place of Milwaukee's Great Ancestors
If you are interested in local history, then a visit to the well-kept Forest Home Cemetery might be a good idea. Forest Home Cemetery can be found in the Lincoln Village neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is the final resting place of many of the city's famed beer barons, politicians and social elite. Both the cemetery and its Landmark Chapel are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and were declared a Milwaukee Landmark in 1973. The cemetery is run by a non-profit organization held in public trust. Profits from each sale are reinvested to insure continual care of the buildings and land. Its Victorian landscape contains over 300 species of trees, along with many ornate statues, crypts and monuments.
Forest Home Cemetery is the result of a union of two beautiful historic cemeteries: Forest Home and German Waldheim. The site of Forest Home was a graveyard long before the coming of European settlers to Illinois. The Potawatomie People, who originally occupied much of the Chicago area, had established a graveyard here before the land was acquired by Ferdinand Haase (an immigrant from Prussia). Haase purchased the site of Forest Home from trapper Leon Bourassa, whose wife was Potawatomie. He built a house and farm, and then opened a public picnic grounds. By mining the land for gravel, he was able to arrange for a railroad spur line to be built, providing easy public access. Haase's Park was a popular recreational spot during the 1850s. Part of the land continued to be used for its original purpose as a cemetery.
At Forest Home Cemetery, the social elite are buried alongside laborers, radical politicians, beer barons, female anarchists, gangsters, and victims of epidemic and fire. Established in 1850, a church committee situated the cemetery of the original 72 acres on a known former Indian village and sacred effigy and burial mound site. The first burial, a gentleman of the name Orville Cadwell, occurred on August 5 in the same year of the cemetery's founding. In 1854, Ferdinand Haase's 21-year-old brother-in-law Carl Zimmerman was buried on a small mound that had been part of the Potawatomie burial grounds, becoming the first non-Native American buried there.
The evocative monuments and family crypts the beer and wheat barons chose for themselves in death reflect their powerful mark on the city's cultural and political landscape in life. Oppressive, deliberate, imposing, they are a testimony of self-importance and a symbol of the competition among the elite. Construction of the Gothic-style Landmark Chapel, using Lake Superior Sandstone, a dark red sandstone found near the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, started in 1890 and took two years to complete. The cemetery's area grew to 200 acres by the turn of the century to accommodate the growing demand for bigger and better plots.
Modern improvements within Forest Home Cemetery include two large mausoleums. The Halls of History is an indoor temperature controlled mausoleum and community center. Along with the columbarium and crypts it houses, the center contains a number of permanent and changing exhibits that educate visitors about the history of Milwaukee and over 100 of its people. Adjacent to this is a large terraced outdoor mausoleum called Chapel Gardens. It contains above ground burials in porticos set by ornate colonnades, statues, and rose gardens. Forest Home is split into eastern and western parts by the Des Plaines River. Until recently, due to the deterioration of the bridges over the river, it was impossible to walk from one side to the other without leaving the cemetery. A new bridge was installed in 2003 to remedy this. If you are around the Milwaukee area then the Forest Home Cemetery is certainly worth a visit.