The first rural cemetery west of the Mississippi River was founded in 1849 by a group led by former mayor, William McPherson. The consortium purchased the 138-acre Hempstead farm, situated north of the city along the road to Fort Bellefontaine, overlooking the river. The following year Almerin Hotchkiss was hired from Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, to lay out the grounds and to act as the cemetery’s Superintendent, a position he retained for the next 46 years.
Hotchkiss’ design featured fourteen miles of curving drives carefully set into the terrain’s rolling hills, taking advantage of vistas to the river. Sculpture and artworks abound throughout the necropolis, and Prospect Avenue, constructed along the river bluffs, is lined with ornate mausolea designed by notable regional architects. The Greek Revival-style Hotchkiss Chapel was erected in 1909, designed by architectural firm Eames and Young. The cemetery also includes the Wainwright Mausoleum, one of only three mausolea designed by architect Louis Sullivan.
Today the cemetery encompasses 314 acres. It is planted with over 5,000 trees representing nearly 200 distinct varieties, and in 2012 became an accredited Arboretum, one of only eighteen cemetery arboreta in the U.S. at the time of accreditation.