Fairmount, founded in 1890, hosts two Denver Historic landmarks: the Ivy Chapel and the Gate Lodge. But historic and beautiful Fairmount cemetery is a Denver landmark in its own right. The cemetery is a preserve to hundreds of wildlife, 3800 trees and heritage roses. The 280 acres are adjacent to Denver’s Highline Canal, and as Denver’s second oldest cemetery, many prominent Denver leaders, pioneers and families have made Fairmount Cemetery their final resting place and have become a part of our history.
Do you recognize these names?
These, and many more, can be found here at Fairmount Cemetery.
The layout of the cemetery was created by German landscape architect Reinhard Schuetze, who was also responsible for the design of City Park and Cheesman Parks in Denver. The serene, park-like setting of Fairmount was intentional, with sweeping vistas, trees, rose gardens, statues and unique buildings. Designated by the Division of Wildlife as a Colorado Wildlife Viewing area, sightings of deer, fox, coyote, hawks, eagles, owls and other birds, are quite frequent.
Families of any religion and walk of life can be laid to rest with dignity surrounded by the true beauty of trees, flowers, and water, all cared for year round. Visit a loved one or walk the serene grounds while learning more about history, nature or the many activities Fairmount offers local families.
Within the 280 acres that makes up Fairmount Cemetery is the Ecclesiastical Gothic Ivy Chapel. Built in 1890, the same year as the cemetery, it features a sky penetrating spire, arches and windows. Twenty six feet wide and sixty four feet long, Henry Ten Eyck Wendell’s design reminds onlookers of a miniature Notre Dame Cathedral.
The space is typically used for services and celebrations of all kind and seats up to 200. Historic and beautiful, it is worth a visit when touring the grounds.
Also built in 1890, the Gate Lodge was home to the cemetery’s superintendent and his family as well as the sexton. The 20 foot archway served as the entrance to the 280 acre property. Today, the building serves as offices for the new Q event center and offices and archives of the Fairmount Heritage Foundation.
Even as late as the early 1800’s American cemeteries were called graveyards, simply an ignored part of culture, an inevitable place for the dead. They were given no aesthetic value, not cared for, and overall dismissed. Only about the middle of the 1800’s did citizens become concerned and step in to make changes. Cemeteries began to feature lawns, flowers and trees.
Founded in Denver in 1876, Riverside Cemetery allowed Denver, with over 30,000 residents, to boast of the first modern cemetery in the west. In fact, the Riverside Cemetery founders made a statement regarding their objectives with a brave, bold new idea:
“…to disassociate our cemeteries as much as possible from all that is repugnant or unduly sombre.. is neither wisdom or good taste…[a cemetery’s] peaceful and restful aspect can be as fully preserved and enhanced by a system of improvement that will be pleasing and beautiful..” Source: Fridtjof Halaas, D.1976. Fairmount and Historic Colorado, 25-26
America’s earliest cemeteries did not require record-keeping until the 1900s. Mount Prospect was the first organized cemetery in Denver with the first burial being that of Jack O’Neill in March 1859. Mount Prospect was not well managed according to the Denverites who fought to create a more attractive and better suited cemetery in the area.
The site of the City Cemetery was chosen by William Larimer and William Clancy in 1858. The cemetery was divided into three sections: Mount Prospect or Prospect Hill, which was for anyone; Roman Catholics were buried in Mount Calvary; and Jewish were in an area named Hebrew Burying and Prayer Ground. In addition to the City Cemetery, the Acadia Cemetery was created in 1867, as a Masonic cemetery. Records show the cemetery only functioned for about 5 years, and though it is assumed the bodies were moved, there is no record of that. This area is what we currently know as the Highlands, between 29th and 31st and between Tejon and Zuni.
Mount Calvary, the section for Roman Catholics, had their last burial in 1908 and many bodies were moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery in present-day Wheat Ridge. The Hebrew cemetery moved some bodies to Riverside Cemetery, the majority however, were placed in a 15 acre plot within Fairmount Cemetery called Emanuel Cemetery and is owned by Congregation Emanuel.
Riverside Cemetery opened in 1876 followed by Fairmount Cemetery which opened in 1890. The opening of these two cemeteries, caused burials at the City Cemetery to decline drastically and the decision was made to no longer allow burials in there in 1893. History suggests that only about a fifth of the bodies were moved from the City Cemetery to other cemeteries, leaving the remaining bodies buried deep below Denver’s Botanic Gardens, Cheesman Park and Congress Park.
Today, Riverside Cemetery has become dry due to a loss of water rights and are fighting for its preservation. Fairmount Cemetery still remains as strong, lush and beautiful as it did when German landscape architect and civil engineer, Reinhard Schuetze first created it. Ironically, Schuetze went on to create several Denver parks including Congress Park which covered the original City Cemetery.
Several additional cemeteries have been developed in the Denver area, yet none have the rich history and tranquil, beautifully maintained 280 acres of land that make up Fairmount Cemetery.
Fairmount Cemetery is home to several of Colorado’s historical figures and veterans. Of them are those who have served in several wars including:
World War I
World War II
Lt. Col. Stephen W. Dorsey (February 28, 1842- March 20, 1916)
A Union war veteran, he enlisted in the Union forces in the Civil War as a private, and served throughout the conflict. At its end, Dorsey held the rank of Lt. Colonel. After the war, Col. Dorsey was a United States Senator from Arkansas from 1873 to 1879.
Major General Orlando Ward (November 4, 1891- February 4, 1972)
General Ward is probably the most decorated veteran in the cemetery. He was a veteran of four wars including the Mexican War, WWI, WWII and the Korean War. He retired in 1953 after 44 years of service to our country.
John Gaylord Church (April 25, 1973- February 25, 1953)
The only military marker in the cemetery with three wars noted upon it, John Gaylord Church served in the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII. He was a Captain in the US Navy.
Guy S Hooper (1877-1900)
Guy served in the 1st Colorado Infantry. His monument is worth as visit as the carved stone is in the shape of a backpack with a hat resting on the top. Located in Block 12 at the Fairmount Cemetery.
Francis Brown Lowry (December 1, 1894- September 26, 1918)
Lieutenant Lowry was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in France when he was killed there. He was buried there and then moved to Fairmount in 1921. The Lowry Air Base in Colorado was named after him.
Herbert Adams Lafferty (1876 – September 17, 1898)
Lieutenant Lafferty was a graduate of West Point class of 1898 and went directly into the Spanish-American War were we was injured and eventually died from his wounds.
Thomas M. Patterson (November 4, 1839- July 23, 1916 )
A Civil War veteran, journalist, and political leader, he was elected Colorado’s first United States Representative and later returned to Washington DC as a US Senator.
General Don Carlos Hasselteno (1825-1903)
Sentenced to death three times in three different countries, Don Carlos Hasselteno was a graduate of Miami and Yale Universities, Heidelberg University and the Naval Academy. He fought in the Civil War and became a prisoner of war but escaped to St. Louis. He was ordered to report for the Union Navy and later fought in the Spanish-American war.
W.A.H. Loveland (1826-1894)
William Austin Hamilton Loveland was a veteran of the Mexican-American War of 1848. He helped plan the layout of Golden, Colorado and was responsible for making it the state’s capital until 1867. He was the President and Founder of the Colorado School of Mines. Both the mountain pass and town of Loveland are named after him.
Henry M. Porter (1838- ?)
Porter was captured by Confederate troops in 1861 while stringing line for the Overland Telegraph. After his release, he came to Denver, became wealthy through banking and is responsible for creating Porter Memorial Hospital. Henry M. Porter is featured in the Colorado Business Hall of Fame.
John Wesley Iliff (December 18, 1831- February 9, 1878)
Born in Ohio, John Wesley Iliff moved to Colorado to open a retail store. He met Elizabeth and they were married and had three children before he died from tainted water. Elizabeth “Lizzie” became a widow at the age of 33 and inherited John’s significant fortune from his cattle ranching business. Five years after his death, she remarried Henry Warren, a methodist bishop, and together they founded the Iliff School of Theology in Denver in 1893. They also build the Fitzroy Place mansion.
Located in Lot 31, Block 63 of the Fairmount Cemetery.
Iliff Avenue runs East/West through Aurora, Denver and Lakewood. It becomes Evans Avenue as it hits Denver and runs right past DU, adjacent to the Iliff School of Theology. Businesses and homes share the space along Iliff Avenue in present day.
Robert Speer (December 1, 1855- May 14, 1918)
Robert Speer was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Colorado in 1878 after getting tuberculosis. He became the City and County of Denver’s first Mayor in 1904. He was responsible for several city park space expansion and beautification. He ran for Mayor again in 1916 and planned the Civic Center Park and the City and County Building, neither of which he lived to see come to pass. Overall, Robert Speer served 5 terms as Denver’s Mayor.
Located in Block 24 at Fairmount Cemetery.
Today, Speer Blvd runs diagonally through Denver along Cherry Creek. Most notably along Speer is the 9News building as well as the Denver Country Club as it turns into 1st Avenue which runs through the prestigious Cherry Creek Shopping Area.
Ralph Lawrence Carr (December 11, 1887 – September 22, 1950)
A Colorado native, Ralph Lawrence Carr grew up in Cripple Creek and became a U.S. Attorney for Colorado in 1929 under President Hoover’s assignment. Carr was elected governor of Colorado in 1938, making him the 29th Governor. He served from 1939 to 1943 and may have lost his political career due to his unpopular stance against Roosevelt’s push for Japanese internment camps.
…“the Japanese are protected by the same Constitution that protects us. An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen… If you harm them, you must first harm me.” Source: Ralph Lawrence Carr
Denver has a statue of Carr to commemorate his efforts on behalf of Japanese-Americans that was erected in 1976 at 19th and Larimer in downtown.
Buried in Fairmount Cemetery. When you visit, don’t miss the Nisei Japanese-American Memorial.
Carr Street runs North to South on the west side of town through Arvada, Wheatridge and Lakewood. A mix of residential homes and small businesses call Carr Street their home, including the Foothills Gold Course.
Jacob Downing (April 12, 1830- 1907)
Major Jacob Downing served in the American Civil War as subordinate of John Chivington, most famous for his role in the Sand Creek Massacre. Born in New York as the youngest of 11, he passed the bar in Chicago in 1858 and moved to Denver in 1859. He helped to establish City Park and gave land and financial backing for Denver infrastructure.
Buried in Fairmount Cemetery
Downing Street in present day runs North to South in Denver east of Broadway. Porter Hospital is located on Downing Street, and coincidentally, it is named after Henry Porter, who is also buried in Fairmount Cemetery.