150 years ago, if you were looking for a beautiful spot to picnic, enjoy the great outdoors, and socialize with family, friends and neighbors, you might have gone to the cemetery.
Garden cemeteries like Lakewood, set far outside the city center, featured winding paths, artistic monuments and lakes. They made an ideal spot to enjoy a meal, with the added bonus that you could sit beside your loved ones who had passed on.
THE GREAT BIG GARDEN PARTY
As Lakewood celebrates our 150th anniversary, we invite our families and the community to step back in time to the days of the popular cemetery picnic. On Sunday, August 21 from 4 – 7 pm, visit Lakewood to enjoy a free boxed meal (RSVP for your meal here) along with live music, horse-drawn carriage rides and more.
WHY WAS PICNICKING IN CEMETERIES SO POPULAR?
When Lakewood opened in 1871, death was a more a part of everyday life, and public parks were not. In fact, Lakewood predated the Minneapolis Park Board by more than 12 years. Charles Loring, before he was known as the father of the Minneapolis Parks, was instrumental in Lakewood’s founding, and he had a major influence on Lakewood’s early horticultural designs.
Additionally, from Lakewood’s earliest days through 1930, American cemetery art flourished. The country’s most prominent architects and sculptors designed cemetery monuments including grand, classical statues of women draped in flowing robes, and towering Egyptian-influenced obelisks. Headstone motifs changed from skulls and crossbones to flowers and angels. Guidebooks of the day highlighted cemetery art, explaining meanings and listing the artisans who created the work.
It’s no wonder that with all of Lakewood’s beauty, a lack of other park-like options, and a comfort with death that may elude us today, families flocked to garden cemeteries.
A CHANGE IN TASTES
By the 1920s, cemetery picnics became less popular. Some cemeteries tired of the littering and mess families left behind. Public parks became more common, especially in Minneapolis thanks to Charles Loring and other notable Lakewood residents like Theodore Wirth. And medical advancements meant that death was not such an everyday occurrence.
LAKEWOOD TODAY – A VIBRANT AND ACTIVE PLACE
Today, we honor our roots as an historic cemetery while reimagining our role in modern life. Lakewood is one of the loveliest urban cemeteries in the country, with extraordinary art, architecture and natural beauty. Our park-like grounds are open to the public 365 days a year, and we welcome visitors to come and explore all we have to offer.
Because Lakewood continues to serve families experiencing grief and loss, we do ask that all visitors familiarize themselves with cemetery etiquette before they visit.
COME PICNIC AND ENJOY A FREE BOXED MEAL, AND MUCH, MUCH MORE
To honor Lakewood’s 150 years of storied history, we invite you to step back in time and celebrate at The Great Big Garden Party. RSVP for your boxed meal HERE
Activities and free boxed meal were made possible thanks to the generosity of the Lakewood Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit created to sustain Lakewood as a local treasure by supporting educational programming and the preservation and restoration of Lakewood’s landscape, art, architecture and public spaces—for the benefit of all.
Learn more about the Lakewood Heritage Foundation’s mission and upcoming initiatives.