Discover our proud past.
Lakewood’s history could fill a book—and has! But here’s a condensed version.
Founded in 1871, Lakewood’s story begins with several New England-born businessmen and women who came to Minnesota in the late 1800s and helped build the city of Minneapolis. Progressive and enlightened, they envisioned Lakewood as a place for the city’s community members to be buried in a peaceful and beautiful setting.
Since its founding, Lakewood has become a keeper of some of this city’s treasures — its historical figures and events, art and architectural styles from the Victorian era (when it was founded), a park-like landscape, and people, communities and organizations from many cultures and walks of life.
Born in Minneapolis
Minneapolis was only a riverfront outpost when Colonel John Stevens built the first permanent dwelling in the 1840s. By 1857, the town had only rough wooden buildings and rutted dirt roads. But in the next 20 years, Minneapolis grew fast.
Lakewood was founded in 1871, four years after Minneapolis was incorporated and 13 years after Minnesota achieved statehood. That year, Minneapolis boasted 13,000 residents and the city’s southern edge was where Franklin Avenue is today.
In July of that year, Colonel William S. King, local businessman and newspaper publisher, proposed to community leaders that they work together to establish a cemetery in Minneapolis. A month later, a group of 15 held a meeting to choose the site and determine how to finance it.
A Garden Cemetery
Lakewood’s founders chose a site out in the country between Lakes Harriet and Bde Maka Ska owned by Colonel King at the time. They planned to model the cemetery after other “rural” or “garden” cemeteries that were growing in popularity along the East Coast. Visitors would travel to Lakewood by horse and buggy on an unpaved road.
Colonel King agreed to sell the land for $21,000, to be paid back over a year at 7 percent interest. During a time in which a home in Minneapolis could be purchased for $500, the new trustees voted to raise $25,000 for the purchase of grounds and improvements. The money was raised by selling 250 shares of stock at $100 a piece, two-thirds of which was purchased by the trustees themselves. The remaining balance was solicited by a committee and sold to other residents of the city.
A Nonprofit Association
The public dedication of Lakewood was held on September 16, 1872. The following month, the Association reacquired all stock from the original investors. Roughly three years later, the Association submitted its first annual report to the lot owners of Lakewood, which stressed the cemetery’s nonprofit status. Since then, Lakewood has continued to exist as a nonprofit, nondenominational cemetery providing services to the families of Minnesota.