Graveyards in Parking Lots
Wednesday, 31st October 2012 by Ian Brown
To mark Halloween this year, we’re visiting some unusual burial places. While it is common for cemeteries to have parking lots, you might think it unlikely that the reverse would happen. However, there are a surprising number of graveyards in parking lots across North America1. One of the most notorious examples is the grave of Mary Ellis in New Jersey.
This small plot was purchased in the early 19th century by Ellis, who faithfully watched the nearby river every day for years, hoping for the return of her seafaring husband. Now surrounded by a large movie theatre parking lot, it is threatened by further construction plans, though the site owner has pledged to relocate the grave nearer the river if development goes ahead.
In Sand Springs, Oklahoma, there is the Tullahassee Creek Indian Cemetery, which houses the graves of approximately 20 members of a Creek Indian ranching family, with burials taking place from 1883 to 1912.
Another large family graveyard is the Boeger Cemetery in Lombard, Illinois. The huge mall nearby opened in 1968, but the cemetery was used by families whose ancestors first settled the area until the 1980s. More information can be found in this Chicago Tribune article.
At times it seems as though little can get in the way of commercial development, with shopping malls and big box stores being built on any spare patch of land. However, the one thing that usually cannot be moved2 is a graveyard, so in many situations developers just build around them, resulting in small patches of sacred ground surrounded by parking spaces.
This is the case in Toronto, where there is a graveyard in the parking lot of a mall in the north-eastern part of Canada’s largest city. Originally farmland with a small church dating to the 19th century, the cemetery was preserved through the efforts of a local historical society. Some of the markers are visible through the trees on Street View and blogTO.com has more information.
Graveyards in parking lots aren’t restricted to movie theatres and shopping malls. In Fort Worth, Texas, there is a small cemetery in the parking lot of a hotel. You can learn more about the Pioneer Ayres Graveyard from the local historical journal.
In North Carolina, there is a graveyard in a parking lot at Duke University.
And in Buffalo, New York, Sheldon Cemetery was built in the early 19th century but is now just steps away from the enormous NFL stadium. This report from local TV has more details (warning: auto-playing video).
There are also two small graveyards in the parking lots in the football stadium at North Carolina State University, but they are not visible on Google’s images.
In Decatur, Georgia, the Crowley Mausoleum has the graves of several members of a family who originally settled this hilly area. While it is called a mausoleum because it looks like a building, it actually is not an enclosed structure. When the land was levelled to build a mall, the grave site was not moved, resulting in a small square plot 3.5m (20′) higher than the surrounding parking lot.
In Memphis, Tennessee, a convent moved and sold its land to commercial developers, leaving the 19th century Bettis family graveyard unmaintained, after which it became a hangout place for the area’s less-than-wholesome characters. A large hardware store bought the property a decade ago and now keeps the cemetery in better condition.
In Prairie Village, Kansas, the Linwood Pioneer Cemetery contains dozens of graves from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Mount Moor African-American Cemetery in West Nyack, New York, contains almost 100 graves, including Civil War veterans.
In Louisville, Kentucky, five members of the Burks family were buried on their farm in the 1840s and 1850s. The farm is gone and their small plot is now surrounded by a mall parking lot.
Many of these locations came from this blog post (and comments) at Roadside Resort. If you know of others, please post links in the comments. Happy Halloween!