Glendale Cemetery was founded in 1839 by Dr. J.D. Commins. Here statues of prominent citizens, an avenue of stately mausoleums and a collection of headstones tell the story of Akron’s past. Jedediah Commins, who came to Akron by way of western New York in 1832, and established Akron’s first drug store located on South Main Street, founded Glendale Cemetery in 1839. On Friday, October 27, 1837, his son Augustus died after a short illness. Feeling that Akron had no suitable burial grounds, Dr. Commins kept his son’s remains at home in a cask of alcohol for over a year.
During the summer of 1838, Commins visited Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston with the idea of selecting a pattern for a tomb. After gazing at the cemetery’s beauty, Commins realized that a similar cemetery could be formed in Akron. When Commins returned to Akron, he was pleased to hear that he was not the only one who wanted a suitable burial ground. At an informal meeting of citizens in the autumn of 1838, Commins was picked to draw up a charter “for the purpose of incorporating a cemetery for the purpose of establishing a rural cemetery.” A petition was also drawn by Commins and was presented to the State Legislature on January 10, 1839, for the State Legislature was required to legalize any associations. On March 18, 1839, the charter drawn by Commins was granted by the state of Ohio, and the Akron Rural Cemetery Association was formed.
The Akron Rural Cemetery Association, more commonly known as Glendale Cemetery, was established by an Act of the General Assembly of the State of Ohio on March 18, 1839. Glendale was the first such chartered cemetery in Ohio (third in the Nation) and it has continuously operated by The Proprietors (Board of Trustees), as a not-for-profit, Ohio corporation, whose sole purpose is the perpetual care of the dead.
The four buildings adjacent to the cemetery’s main entrance are listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The Superintendent’s House was completed in 1869, The Memorial Chapel in 1875, the Bell Tower in 1883 and the Cemetery Office in 1902. The grounds of the cemetery have been recently listed on the Register, as a historic landscape.
Glendale is a picturesque romantic landscape with its curving roads, use of promontories to create vistas and a variety of architectural styles that draw upon ancient building forms. Mausoleums are modeled after Egyptian, Greek and Roman temples or Gothic churches. Nineteenth-century accounts described Glendale as “beautifully laid out in romantic drives and walks” and note its role as an area park and tourist destination. Originally, the cemetery had a stream and two bodies of water—Willow and Swan Lakes. Due to the increased development surrounding the cemetery during the late 19th century, the natural spring that fed the lakes dried up. The superintendent of the cemetery at that time proposed running a pipe to the Ohio and Erie Canal to re-water the lakes, but this was never realized. Today the open space or Great Meadow recalls the scale of Swan Lake and several mausoleums have small foot bridges that once crossed over the stream fronting them. Distinct sections of the cemetery are devoted to the Masons, Akron’s Jewish community and infants and children. The Civil War is prominently commemorated in Glendale Cemetery. The Buckley Post of the Union Army has a large memorial marker surrounded by 50 headstones located on the northern plateau. The 1876 Gothic Revival style Memorial Chapel was constructed by the Buckley Post and has been recently restored.
For over a century and a half, Glendale Cemetery has served as a living history of Akron. Located deep in the heart of the city, Glendale Cemetery is a very special place where peace and tranquility abound – a place that serves as the guardian of our rich heritage.