Knollwood Cemetery and Mausoleum
EstablishedSeptember 9, 1908
CountryUnited States
Coordinates41°30′45″N 81°26′34″W / 41.512507°N 81.442796°W / 41.512507; -81.442796Coordinates: 41°30′45″N 81°26′34″W / 41.512507°N 81.442796°W / 41.512507; -81.442796
Size96 acres (390,000 m2)
No. of gravesMore than 50,000 (2020)
Find a GraveKnollwood Cemetery and Mausoleum
The Political GraveyardKnollwood Cemetery and Mausoleum

Knollwood Cemetery is a cemetery located at 1678 SOM Center Road in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Established in 1908, it is one of the largest cemeteries in Cuyahoga County. A mausoleum was completed in 1926, and an expansion finished in 1959. The cemetery's mausoleum, the largest in the state, boasts a number of windows by Tiffany & Co.

Creating the cemetery

Knollwood Cemetery was incorporated on September 9, 1908, by C.F. Heinig, Francis P. Newcome, and H.L. Ebbert.[1] A five-member board of directors was established, and Benjamin Ottman elected its first president.[2] A few weeks after its incorporation, the cemetery purchased 200 acres (810,000 m2) of land from the Pennington-Quilling Co. for $40,000 ($1,152,148 in 2020 dollars). The land had previously been the farm of Robert Lowe.[3] In June 1909, the cemetery purchased another 10 acres (40,000 m2) of land for $100 ($2,880 in 2020 dollars) from James Watters, and 22.6 acres (91,000 m2) of land from J.W. Thorman for $100.[4] Another 27.4 acres (111,000 m2) were acquired from other sources.[5]

Ground was broken on the new cemetery on June 26, 1909.[5] Paul Heinze,[6] an architect from Detroit, Michigan, who had designed several cemeteries in the Midwestern United States, laid out Knollwood as a "park" cemetery.[5] Twenty work crews began preparing burial vaults, grading roads, and landscaping 170 acres (690,000 m2) of the site in preparation for a July 15 dedication.[a] Work included the creation of a man-made lake. The cemetery's roads were paved with macadam, while the county began work on grading and laying asphalt on Mayfield Road to upgrade it in time for the burial ground's opening.[5] Other work at the site included the emplacement of stormwater sewers about 7 feet (2.1 m) belowground, and the construction of a front entrance consisting of wrought iron gates supported by several granite pillars.[6] A.T. Russell sold 1,150 acres (4,700,000 m2) of land to Knollwood in September 1909.[7]

The first interments at Knollwood were about 300 bodies removed from the old Erie Street Cemetery in downtown Cleveland.[5] Hiram Brott became the first contemporary person to be interred at Knollwood when he was buried there on April 27, 1910.[8] Interments were relatively few in number until 1912.[6] Demand for burial space was strong enough that by 1916 25 acres (100,000 m2) of the cemetery had been cleared, landscaped, and plots laid out. Fully 16 acres (65,000 m2) of this acreage was near the entrance of the cemetery, and consisted of a park-like garden cemetery. The remaining 9 acres (36,000 m2) were more like a lawn cemetery. Another 45 acres (180,000 m2) of the property had been cleared of underbrush and sodded, while 45 acres (180,000 m2) remained heavily forested. The cemetery association also sold about 33 acres (130,000 m2) of land, and spent $25,000 ($594,572 in 2020 dollars) constructing a caretaker's residence (which included a small chapel) and maintenance buildings.[6][b]

By the mid 1920s, Knollwood Cemetery was effectively a large land-holding company. In 1925, Knollwood sought to become a nonprofit organization. Under Ohio law, this meant the cemetery had to divest itself of most of its investments, which meant selling off land. This included the sale of 100 acres (400,000 m2) of land to the new Acacia Park Cemetery, adjacent to Knollwood.[10][11][12]

By the end of 1927, Knollwood Cemetery held more than 2,300 remains.[13]


Knollwood Cemetery mausoleum.
Knollwood Cemetery mausoleum.

In 1923, Knollwood Cemetery announced it had hired noted funerary architect Sidney Lovell to design a large, above-ground mausoleum for the cemetery. Plans called for the structure to be a mixture of Gothic Revival and Egyptian Revival, and for it to include two chapels and about 50 "private rooms" off the main corridor.[14] It was completed about 1926.[15][c]

To decorate the mausoleum, the cemetery commissioned a number of large stained glass windows from Tiffany & Co., most of which were vaguely secular in nature.[17] Other Tiffany windows were commissioned by individuals who owned crypts in the mausoleum.[d] All of the windows were finished in the late 1920s and early 1930s, toward the end of Louis Comfort Tiffany's life, making it unclear how much work Tiffany himself put into their design. As of 2006, there were 17 windows in the mausoleum attributed to Tiffany.[19]

In 1928, Knollwood Cemetery officials determined the mausoleum should be expanded. Hubbell & Benes, a Cleveland architectural firm, designed the addition, which was constructed by the Craig-Curtiss Co.[20] The $175,000 ($2,637,548 in 2020 dollars) addition was finished in December 1928.[21] Seven more additions were made between 1930 and 1959.[22] A 4,842-square-foot (449.8 m2) addition was added in 1997.[23]

Operational history

Section 27 at Knollwood Cemetery
Section 27 at Knollwood Cemetery

In 1930, the Memorial Construction Company of Lansing, Michigan, purchased Knollwood Cemetery. Knollwood Cemetery was sold to Gibraltar Mausoleum Corp. in 1994, and in June 1995 Gibraltar was purchased by Service Corporation International.[24]

Knollwood was sued over the mishandling of remains in 1983. In 1929, Katherine G. Mallison was buried in a family plot at Knollwood. Her granddaughter, Dorothy Mallison Carney, died in 1982. While digging the Carney grave, cemetery workers discovered that it was already occupied by a wooden burial vault containing Mallison's coffin. Cemetery workers used a backhoe to remove Mallison's burial vault and remains, which they dumped at a refuse site on the cemetery grounds. Carney's burial occurred a few hours later. In March 1983, a Cleveland television station broadcast news about the mishandling of remains at the cemetery. After an investigation revealed the remains were Mallinson's, Carney's children sued the cemetery and were awarded $56,000. Knollwood Cemetery appealed, but the Ohio Eighth District Courts of Appeals upheld the verdict in 1986.[25]

In 1988, Knollwood Cemetery workers buried Ruth Pistillo in the wrong grave. The family discovered the error only when no headstone was placed on the grave Pistillo had purchased. Even after the error was discovered, Knollwood remained unsure as to who was buried in the wrong grave. Pistillo had to be disinterred and one of her family members had to identify the body. Her heirs received $101,000 in damages.[26]

In 2002, Knollwood Cemetery sought permission from the city of Mayfield Heights to permit the drilling and operation of a natural gas well on its property by Bass Energy. Knollwood said the proposed wells would be in an area about 300 yards (270 m) from any graves, an area which would not be used for burials for at least 25 to 30 years. Knollwood said the wells would provide it with free natural gas for heating of its mausoleum and other buildings, and would give the cemetery much-needed revenue of about $50,000 a year for 10 years[27] to help meet its $350,000-a-year operating costs.[e] The city denied the permit. The conflict led to the introduction of legislation in the Ohio Legislature to strip localities and counties of their authority to regulate oil and gas wells.[29][30] This law passed in September 2004. Subsequently, three natural gas wells were drilled and began operation on the Knollwood property.[31] The new law was challenged in court. As the lawsuit progressed, a Court of Common Pleas allowed production to continue at existing wells at the Knollwood Cemetery.[32] The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the new state law in February 2015.[33]

In 2008, the Vitale family sued Knollwood cemetery for placing a natural gas well too close to their mausoleum on the cemetery's grounds. The family also accused Knollwood (which had erected the mausoleum) of constructing such a poorly-built structure that family members had to be disinterred and the mausoleum rebuilt.[30] The case was dismissed with prejudice in May 2010.[34]

Knollwood Cemetery had about 47,000 burials in 2007,[35] and between 94 acres (380,000 m2)[30] and 96 acres (390,000 m2)[35] in 2008. Its mausoleum remained the largest in the state as of 2012.[28]

Notable interments

Feargus B. Squire crypt.
Feargus B. Squire crypt.
Sam and Marilyn Sheppard crypt.
Sam and Marilyn Sheppard crypt.

A number of famous individuals are buried at Knollwood Cemetery. They include:


  1. ^ It's clear from later reports that not all of the 170 acres (690,000 m2) were immediately converted to burial space.[6] Most of the work probably consisted of clearing brush, laying sod, and building roads.
  2. ^ A different source claims the cemetery still had 250 acres (1,000,000 m2) of land as of 1937.[9] The sale of land may have come not from the cemetery itself, but from the Knollwood Cemetery Association's other extensive land-holdings.
  3. ^ "Private rooms" are spaces in a mausoleum, usually gated or grilled and about 10 by 10 feet (3.0 by 3.0 m) in size, containing five to 10 single-capacity crypts.[16]
  4. ^ For example, Annette Kaple commissioned a window depicting a mountain scene from Tiffany in the early 1920s.[18]
  5. ^ In testimony before the Ohio Senate, Forest P. Reichert, president of Knollwood Cemetery, claimed it took more than $8,000 a month to heat the mausoleum, and that a "recent" recarpeting cost $165,000.[28]
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  2. ^ "Legal Notices". The Plain Dealer. May 4, 1909. p. 9.
  3. ^ "Site For Cemetery". The Plain Dealer. September 27, 1908. p. 14.
  4. ^ "Realty Transfers". The Plain Dealer. June 25, 1909. p. 10.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Begin Work On City of the Dead". The Plain Dealer. June 27, 1909. p. 8.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Knollwood Cemetery, Cleveland". The Monumental News. August 1916. p. 505. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
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  8. ^ "Mortuary Notice". The Plain Dealer. April 26, 1910. p. 11.
  9. ^ Historical Records Survey 1938, p. 110.
  10. ^ Deal 1987, p. 165.
  11. ^ Vigil 2007.
  12. ^ "Masons Open New Cemetery". The Plain Dealer. June 3, 1929. p. 6; "Bundy to Head Acacia Cemetery". The Plain Dealer. November 24, 1961. p. 10.
  13. ^ "Look for Your Answer Here". The Plain Dealer. January 26, 1928. p. 22.
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  18. ^ Sotheby's 1990, p. 617.
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  20. ^ "Knollwood Contract Let". The Plain Dealer. May 2, 1928. p. 24.
  21. ^ "$77,441,000 In Building Is Done By Clevelanders". The Plain Dealer. January 2, 1929. p. 11.
  22. ^ "Unusual Value at Knollwood". The Plain Dealer. October 17, 1959. p. 47.
  23. ^ "Communities". The Plain Dealer. October 15, 1997. p. B6.
  24. ^ Schneider, A.J. (June 19, 1995). "Industry giant to buy Gibraltar Mausoleum". Indianapolis Business Journal. p. A3.
  25. ^ Carney v. Knollwood Cemetery Association, 33 Ohio App. 3d 31 (Ohio App. 1986).
  26. ^ Torassa, Ulysses (June 4, 1992). "Woman in Wrong Grave, Family Gets $101,000". The Plain Dealer. p. A1.
  27. ^ Tinsley, Jesse (September 27, 2002). "Emotions run high over gas well idea for Knollwood Cemetery". The Plain Dealer. p. B4.
  28. ^ a b Bennett, Shawn (July 13, 2012). "Natural Gas Development Provides Much Needed Relief To Cemeteries". Energy In-Depth. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  29. ^ Tinsley, Jesse (November 17, 2003). "East Side mayors fight to regulate gas drilling". The Plain Dealer. p. B1.
  30. ^ a b c McCarty, James F. (August 15, 2008). "Woman sues cemetery over gas well near crypt". The Plain Dealer. p. B1.
  31. ^ Flournoy, Tasha (April 20, 2005). "Residents look to cap well-drilling efforts". The Plain Dealer. p. B1.
  32. ^ Flournoy, Tasha (May 31, 2005). "Gas wells again pit David vs. Goliath". The Plain Dealer. p. A1.
  33. ^ Smyth, Julie Carr (February 17, 2015). "Court upholds Ohio's power to regulate drilling". Mansfield Journal. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  34. ^ "Josephine A. Vitale v. Knollwood Cemetery Association. CV-08-667688". Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts. May 19, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
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  36. ^ Spencer 1998, p. 387.
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  57. ^ Dirck, Joe (October 7, 1999). "Body Exits Crypt As It Arrived—In Spotlight". The Plain Dealer. p. B1.
  58. ^ Simonich, Milan (September 17, 1997). "Beyond the Grave". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 15.
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