Elmhurst Cemetery is a Special Place

Wooded heights and shaded valleys alternate from side to side. There are grassy slopes and shaded lanes, surrounded by mature trees providing dappled shade — and in the center of things, a Columbarium Niche Garden. Elmhurst Cemetery, named for the 760 elm trees that once graced it’s narrow lanes, was established in 1858, the same year that Minnesota became a state.

Elmhurst Cemetery is one of St. Paul’s oldest cemeteries. It followed that of the more famous Oakland Cemetery on Jackson Street, where many Minnesota’s pioneers are buried, and of Calvary, the Catholic cemetery on Front Street.

Elmhurst Cemetery was established in 1858

This was the same year that Minnesota became a state. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at 10th and Wabasha streets in St. Paul selected a site at Orchard and Victoria streets beyond the city limits.

Trinity bought the land from William Passavant of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Passavant was an important figure in the General Council, which strongly advocated the adoption of English for worship services in Lutheran churches. The Pennsylvania Ministerium, a member of the General Council, had sent Johannes F. C. Heyer, pastor of Trinity in the late 1850s, to draw together both German- and English-speaking Lutherans.

The Old 1885 Elmhurst Gothic Revival Chapel

The old 1885 Elmhurst Gothic Revival Chapel once stood where the Columbarium Niche Garden is currently. The centerpiece of Elmhurst Cemetery, St. Paul’s third oldest cemetery, the one-room structure was imposing, almost baronial from a distance with it’s delicate Gothic tracery framing the pointed-arched windows and brick gingerbread on it’s front gable ends.

Surrounded by the 760 elms that graced the narrow lanes throughout the cemetery, the Chapel was the size of a one-room schoolhouse and constructed of stout brick pilasters at the corners and lead-glass windows. The keystone plaque over the main double door entry read 1885.

In a by-gone era the Chapel was where those who died during winter were lowered through a trap door in the floor and stored in the air-cooled cellar until the ground thawed out in spring. It could hold 25-30 coffins in the old crypt area. Never heated and no plumbing, the building turned from chapel to storage as modern technology for grave digging made winter burial possible.

In 1997 it was decided by Trinity and St. John’s Evangelic Lutheran churches in St. Paul, which owned the cemetery, that the cost of restoration of the historic landmark was just too costly and was demolished in 1998. The old 1885 Gothic Revival Chapel gone today but not forgotten in the passage of time.

Locate a Loved One

With our Locate a Loved One tool, you can discover the location of your loved ones at Elmhurst, get directions to their resting site, and submit your favorite photos and memories