Tuesday, June 9, 2009

mt olivet cemetery

Cemeteries are beautiful places that offer a great deal of design on a small scale. These sacred spaces also provide an important connection both to the earth and to our past. Mount Olivet Cemetery, adjacent to a large thoroughfare in Salt Lake City, provides a space that is quiet and peaceful, allowing meditation in the middle of a bustling city. Here people are careful how they drive, talk, walk and act.

By far the most exciting and beautiful part of the cemetery are a series of individual family mausoleums; a neighborhood of small well-designed buildings nestled amongst rolling hills with abundant wildlife all around. Both times I visited the site, dozens of deer were present.

Young family mausoleum. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

These buildings with unknown designers deal with site placement, material selection, style, threshold, entry, security, and window and door openings, including stain glass windows. Many are approaching one hundred years old. In a way they act as precious jewel-box designs from a past era. Each of these family mausoleums were up to the family to design and build as they saw fit.

L to R: Lewis and Bamberger family mausoleums. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

Skylight in Lewis Family mausoleum. Visible only because glass on front door was broken, allowing a view inside. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

List of several family mausoleums with guessed dates of construction based on earliest burials within:
Victor Clement d. Apr 1903
Removed and placed in Mrs. Clement's vault on 16 Jul 1906
Constructed approx. 1906

James David Wood d. 17 Jan 1909
Removed and placed in Mrs. J D Wood Vault 02 Mar 1911
Constructed approx. 1911

Agnes Dow Ireland d. 27 Sep 1930
Constructed prior to 1930

Joseph Young d. 20 Mar 1925
Removed and placed in Young vault 14 Jan 1932
Constructed approx. 1932

Ernest Bamberger (married to Eleanor Dooly dau. of John E Dooly) d. 1958
son John Ernest Bamberger bur. 29 May 1944 (entombment)
Bertha Bamberger bur. 14 May 1939
Walter C Lewis bur. 10 Aug 1943 in J E Bamberger vault
Constructed prior to 1939

Ireland family mausoleum built into hillside. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

Snyder family mausoleum. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

L to R: Harkness, Ireland, and Bamberger family mausoleums. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

L to R: Young, Felkner, and Wood family mausoleums. Photo taken by author 07 Jun 2009.

Established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1874, Mount Olivet was established as a public burial place for all people at a reasonable cost. The entry gate on 500 South was designed by Walter Ware; the English Tudor office residence by Ware and Treganza; the red building to the south by Kletting, the architect of the Utah Capitol. More than 35,000 former citizens rest in the 50 developed acres of the cemetery. The Red Rock area is exclusively for cremains, though cremains can be interred in any plot. Eighty-eight varieties of trees shade paved roads that serve as strolling paths for nearby residents and for family and friends who come to reminisce. (Deseret News 16 Jun 1997)

Cemetery office designed by Ware & Treganza. Photo taken by author 09 Jun 2009.

Red Building designed by Kletting. Photo taken by author 09 Jun 2009.

A colorful past lies buried at Mount Olivet
S.L. Graveyard: Some of the state’s richest and most powerful people are interred at the cemetery.
Mount Olivet Cemetery was founded in 1874, at a time when the territory’s Mormons and non-Mormons clashed daily over questions of commerce, politics, polygamy and statehood. It’s not that non-Mormons couldn’t be buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. They could. But they wanted a place of their own.

So Episcopal Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, with the help of the commander of Camp (now Fort) Douglas, petitioned Congress for 20 acres of the Army’s land. Mount Olivet was Salt Lake City’s second public burial ground and the only public non-profit cemetery in the United States ever to be created by an act of Congress. Bishop Tuttle named it after an academy he attended as a boy in the East.

The deed to Mount Olivet Cemetery came with some water rights to Red Butte and Emigration creeks, irrigation rights the trustees retain to this day. Those water rights were a source of pride in early times. The trustees of Mount Olivet reveled in the lush beauty of their park, especially because, located high on a hill, the Salt Lake Cemetery burned brown every summer.

Mount Olivet gained more land over the years. Now it has 88 acres. Half are developed; 31,000 people are interred here.

Some of the state’s richest and most powerful people are buried in Mount Olivet. Coleman likes to point out the graves of mining magnates Thomas Kearns and David Keith, the entrepreneur Walker brothers, bankers Russell Lord Tracy and James Collins, Gov. George H. Dern (who was also secretary of war under Franklin Roosevelt) and a number of Salt Lake mayors.

Utah’s Silver Queen, Susanna Bransford Emery, is buried somewhere in Mount Olivet. Coleman says that at the time of her burial there were so many rumors “about the silver dress she was buried in and silver dollars in her coffin” that the exact location of her grave was kept secret. (Deseret News 5 Jun 1991)

Greenhouse at Mt Olivet Cemetery. Photograph dated 1 Oct 1913. From Utah State Historical Society website.

Remains of Greenhouse. Photo taken by author 09 Jun 2009.

Mount Olivet is a public, non-profit cemetery established by an Act of Congress that was signed by President U.S. Grant. The Salt Lake Mount Olivet was designed by three architects and known for its red sandstone and wrought iron-gates, office and barn. (Deseret News 25 May 1994)

Notice the handsome office-residence just within the decorative iron gates at the main entrance. This building replaced an earlier wooden shack that served as the sexton's headquarters. A Mrs. Hall of the congregational Church donated funding for the Tudor design by Ware and Treganza, constructed in 1911. Recently the shielding overgrown pines were removed from the front yard, and the exterior of the building restored to its original color scheme and beauty. Beside it is the spacious dark red brick carriage house, added in 1913. Under its gabled roof the hay vas stored for the horses below, and multiple vehicles of the day. Today, all the horses, 380 of them, are under the hood of the tractor that serves so many functions.

The adjacent greenhouse no longer serves its original purpose. When there was a permanent staff of ten or more, it was possible to maintain extensive flower beds with their own stock from the greenhouse. Now with a reduced staff, down to six, with extras in the busy seasons, the present group is hard pressed to keep up with the chores of the much extended area presently in use.

Some crypts are still in active use (Bamberger and Snyder) but since they take extra funds for maintenance, they are not as popular as they once were. Each structure can house one to thirteen caskets on the shelves within. (Floralie K. Millsaps, August 1988, A TOUR OF MOUNT OLIVET: The Cemetery Comes to Life)

Entry gate designed by Ware & Treganza. Photo taken by author 09 Jun 2009.

Entry gate designed by Ware & Treganza. Photo taken by author 09 Jun 2009.


  1. this is very cool. I haven't explored Mt. Olivet because I would have to get in my car and drive there, and I'm already within walking distance of the cemetery in the Avenues. But I will make a point of visiting Mt. Olivet soon.

  2. Holly - It must be great to be in walking distance of a cemetery - very peaceful places. There are actually some nice mausoleums in the jewish portion of the city cemetery that are more recent and modern in style, but also quite nice. And the entrance gate at the SW corner of city cemetery is stunning.

  3. should have told you this ages ago, but back in September I visited this cemetery on your recommendation. I like that is has running water, and a few spots that welcome visitors to meditate, and I like some of the larger structures, but I admit I still prefer the cemetery in the Avenues: it's bigger, with more history, and better views.

    it's also interesting to walk in the Avenues cemetery now that winter has arrived. It's noticeably colder there than in the streets surrounding it. I figure if cars and houses with active furnaces can make that much difference in the temperature of an individual neighborhood, there's not much point in arguing that human activity isn't affecting, quite negatively and intensely, the temperature of the planet overall.

  4. I was not prepared for what I was to see when I visited the final place of an old friend. I expected a place with head stones, beautiful grave sites. Instead I find hundreds of flat markers flush with the ground just so the city can mow the grounds easily. The plates are hard to find, tell little about the person and in all practical since is a paupers grave sites. Devoid of color just large open fields with head stones flush to the ground. I was saddened to think a friend could be put in such a place, even state military cem. Are better kept. If all you want is a hole to place your love oe, then by all means put them here, otherwise cremate them would be better. But if you love them, love their memory then find a better place.

  5. It just goes to show that when you see something frequently you forget to appreciate it. My parents, and many others of my ancestors, are buried at Mt. Olivet. Since my family lived on the Avenues of Salt Lake, my parents would have preferred to be buried in the City Cemetery (it was only two blocks away from our house). But now that I know more about what a special cemetery Mt. Olivet is, I'm very pleased to know that that is their final resting place. And we love going to see the deer there. They are a welcome addition to a beautifully kept graveyard.

  6. i loved the huge wonderful blooming tres and weeping willows towering thn weeping to the ground. and the wonderful victorian statues! and the sweet gentle deer...what a restful meditative place to visit and be at rest in. i was glad to get to walk thru this park this Friedhof (peace court) i have some beautiful pics to remind me of my visit.

  7. I see you have the "Red Building" attributed to Richard Kletting. I am looking for the year and a way to document the building. Can you advise me?

  8. I see you have the "Red Building" attributed to Richard Kletting. I am looking for the year and a way to document the building. Can you advise me?

  9. I see you have the "Red Building" attributed to Richard Kletting. I am looking for the year and a way to document the building. Can you advise me?