The Mausoleums of Fairmount Cemetery

It’s Halloween week so I thought it only fitting to explore one of Denver’s great architectural treasures: Fairmount Cemetery.  Founded in 1890, Fairmount Cemetery was the third major cemetery to be developed in Denver.


The first, Mount Prospect Cemetery, was founded in 1859 by William Larimer, Jr. and was intended to be a beautiful burial ground to the east of Denver City.  Unfortunately it was located in an arid place far from water and its first inhabitant was Jack O’Neil, a man killed in a gunfight.  The non-denominational cemetery soon earned an unsavory reputation and was seen as a blight on the city.  In 1873, its ownership was transferred to the city and it became known as City Cemetery*.  (At that time, the two religious sections of Mount Prospect Cemetery were transferred to religious institutions: Mount Calvary Cemetery was transferred to the Catholic Church and the Jewish Burial and Prayer Ground was transferred to a Jewish congregation.)

In 1876, a group of prominent Denver businessmen formed Riverside Cemetery.  Located on the banks of the South Platte River just northeast of the city, Riverside Cemetery was planned as a ‘rural cemetery’ in a garden-like setting, similar to Mt. Auburn Cemetery outside of Boston.  It took several years for the owners to develop Riverside Cemetery into a lush oasis with tree-lined allées and beautiful plantings.  During that time, development began encroaching on Riverside, with railroad tracks and factories lining its perimeter.  So in 1890, a second group of prominent business men formed Fairmount Cemetery and rapidly transformed it into a beautifully laid out and landscaped cemetery to rival society cemeteries like Green-Wood in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill in Philadelphia.  Riverside and Fairmount cemeteries merged in 1900.

* In 1893, City Cemetery was closed and the remains disinterred to Riverside Cemetery.  The land later became Cheesman Park, a lush urban oasis in the heart of Denver.  The Jewish Burial and Prayer Ground, closed in 1923, became part of Congress Park, and Mount Calvary Cemetery, closed in 1908, later became the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Our first look at Fairmount will be the impressive mausoleums.  (On Wednesday we will look at unique monuments and carvings.)  Most of the mausoleums at Fairmount are centered around the Ivy Chapel near the northwest corner of the cemetery, not too far from the original street car turn around.