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Tomb of the Brights.

Grave Expressions of Cave Hill Cemetery

Louisville, Kentucky

Labyrinthine and seemingly endless, Cave Hill Cemetery buried its first body in 1848, and after an additional 136,000+ graves, urns, and mausoleums it still has room for more. Cave Hill is the status boneyard of Louisville, and although global celebrities such as Colonel Sanders and Muhammed Ali are buried here, its most memorable monuments belong to comparative unknowns, and mostly to people who've died relatively recently.

Cemetery entrance.

We asked Michael Higgs, manager of the Cave Hill Heritage Foundation, why this was so. He cited improved technology as one reason for the increasingly elaborate and personal memorials, but mostly attributed it to Louisville's long history of monument design companies, and its resident stone carvers and bronze artisans. It also helps that Louisville has an elite with money to spend, a Southern culture of posthumous display, and a cemetery that welcomes it.

Space aliens?

Also, in an increasingly appearances-are-everything world, people (or their surviving kin) want to make an eye-grabbing impression even after they're dead.

From the start, Cave Hill Cemetery was designed not as a grim, mournful churchyard, but as a recreation destination, where Louisville families would visit their deceased relatives and bring a picnic lunch. Today, as a tourist attraction, many modern visitors have no personal connection to the dead, but the cemetery helps out with maps and guided tours. "Many times people come because they want to see a famous grave," said Michael, "and when they arrive they stay because of us having such a wide variety of monument art."

Pennies for the Magician.

A lack of familiarity with the deceased drapes a veil of mystery over some of Cave Hill's more personal and atypical monuments, which Michael, as an official spokesman, was tactfully unwilling to lift. "I'm not in a position to make a supposition about that," he said of one enigmatic memorial. "I cannot give you a story for that with accuracy," he said of another. Nevertheless, he noted that all of Cave Hill's grave monuments are designed in consultation with a cemetery advisor, and all must be approved by the office staff.


So... thumbs up to Cave Hill, which in many cases has said, in effect, "If that's what you really want, go ahead."

Cave Hill Cemetery has nearly 300 acres of wooded property and tens of thousands of normal headstones, so it may seem like a daunting place to find specific unusual graves. Fortunately for us, many are in prominent spots along the cemetery's 16 miles of paved roads.

The people who paid for these monuments clearly meant for them to be seen. It only seems right that we should pay attention.

Also see: Colonel Sanders Grave | Muhammed Ali Grave

Cave Hill Cemetery

Cave Hill Rd, Louisville, KY
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Flower WomanFlower Woman, Louisville, KY - < 1 mi.
Colonel Sanders GraveColonel Sanders Grave, Louisville, KY - < 1 mi.
Jack the Loyal DogJack the Loyal Dog, Louisville, KY - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Birthplace of the Cheeseburger, Louisville, KY - 1 mi.

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