History and Landmarks
From Woodland's Lookout Point - the highest point in the city - Dayton's skyline far surpasses the dreams of John Van Cleve, one of the city's important leaders and Woodland's founder. By the 1840s, Dayton was outgrowing its original cemetery at Third and Main Streets. Dayton's pioneer families faced the problem. The village was growing and a larger, more suitable cemetery was needed, preferably on some of the beautiful wooded and rolling land with which Dayton was surrounded. Selecting from thousands of available acres, the original trustees, led by John Van Cleve, chose 40 acres remarkable for their hilltop views and their wide variety of trees. Opening in 1843, it was for that natural beauty that they chose to call it "Woodland." At that time those acres seemed quite far from the center of the little city. Little did they know that, in the decades to come, Dayton would reach out to Woodland and then surround it on all sides.
In those days, Ohio was most popular for settling because of the value of our farm products. Southwestern Ohio had very good farms and had the largest Ohio city, Cincinnati, with a population of over 100,000. Dayton had about 20,000 people, one out of every four being foreign-born, mainly Irish and German, who had come to build the Miami-Erie Canal in the 1850s. Half were Ohio-born, with a few African-Americans. Dayton was already becoming industrial with the Barney & Smith Car Works, a leading producer of railroad cars. Streets were dirt, often mud, with wooden sidewalks. The Courthouse downtown was the best building there. It was built in the 1840s.
In early times, many children died before they were 10, women died in childbirth and epidemics often killed several members of the same family. The cemetery was a place to "talk" to the deceased while honoring them with flowers. Family picnics were commonplace in large, park-like cemeteries. The park-like cemetery remained popular until about World War I. By that time, many diseases had been conquered and early deaths of family members were less common. Cemeteries were rarely visited and often neglected.
Today, Woodland's 200 acres make up one of the nation's oldest "garden" cemeteries. Its Romanesque gateway, chapel and office, completed in 1889, are on the National Register of Historic Places. The chapel has one of the finest original Tiffany windows in the country. 100,000 monuments, ranging from rugged boulders to Greek statues and temples, note the lives of people who helped to shape a young nation and a young city. With more than 3,000 trees on its rolling hills, Woodland is recognized as one of the area' finest arboretums. Many of its trees are more than a century old. Having burial space for many years to come, Woodland offers several types of burial services. In the Garden of the Soaring Spirit, lawn crypts provide the advantage of a modern memorial along with a smaller burial space.
Other parts of Woodland provide more efficient use of the land, featuring cremation and mausoleums. The beautiful architecture of Woodland Mausoleum with its rock and bronze face, features twenty-two varieties of imported marble and twelve large stained glass windows, inspired by famous literary works. The crematory and columbaria (storage for urns) in the building give families more options for remembering their loved ones.
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