Some presidents get extremely modest final resting places. Others get elaborate tributes. The latter is the case for James A. Garfield.
Despite serving just six months as chief executive in 1881 before falling victim to an assassination attempt, Garfield has one of the most spectacular memorials I have seen.
It’s inside Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery, which also serves as the final resting place for several members of the powerful John D. Rockefeller family and famous prohibition-era cop Eliot Ness.
What does the Rockefeller grave look like? What does the Garfield grave look like? Read on to learn about the tombs of these famous and powerful men.
The President Garfield Grave + Memorial at Lake View Cemetery
James Garfield was the 20th president of the United States, serving from March to September 1881. Born in Orange, Ohio in 1831, he was a brilliant student who graduated from Hiram College and went on to earn a law degree at Western Reserve University.
In 1859, he was elected to the Ohio State Senate and remained in office until 1861 when he joined the Union Army during the Civil War. Serving with distinction, he rose through the ranks to become a major general.
After his military service, Garfield returned to politics and was elected as a Republican representative from Ohio in 1862. He served in Congress for 17 years, was nominated as the Republican candidate for president in 1880, and won a close election against Democrat Winfield Hancock.
As president, Garfield sought to reduce government spending, reform civil service, and stressed the importance of education.
Dedicated in 1890, Garfield’s memorial is spectacular. It’s a 180 foot tall monument featuring Roman and Gothic architecture and intricate exterior panels depicting important moments in his life.
The interior of the building features mosaics on the ceiling, stained glass windows, granite columns, and an impressive statue of the man.
Down in the lower level are the caskets of Garfield and his wife Lucretia, as well as the urns of their daughter and son-in-law.
Garfield’s is the only presidential casket on full public display anywhere in the country.
There’s also an upper level allowing visitors to see the memorial from above and to step out on the balcony and view the rest of the cemetery and the Cleveland skyline.
The Garfield Memorial has limited visitation hours – from 9 am to 4:30 or 5:30 pm, depending on time of year. There’s no charge to visit the cemetery or the monument.
John D. Rockefeller Grave Site in Cleveland
A short walk from the Garfield Memorial are the graves of billionaire philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and several members of his family. Rockefeller was born in New York state but ended up settling in Cleveland.
Rockefeller founded Standard Oil Company in 1870 with several partners and used aggressive business tactics to gain control over 90% of America’s oil industry within 10 years, amassing a fortune that made him one of the wealthiest men in history.
The Rockefeller family obelisk is one of the tallest in the cemetery. Many visitors leave dimes at the grave site, in honor of Rockefeller’s habit of giving dimes to children.
His philanthropic efforts helped fund medical research and educational institutions throughout America during his lifetime.
Rockefeller died in 1937 at age 97, leaving behind an impressive legacy as one of the world’s most famous businessmen.
This was probably the saddest grave in the collection: A Rockefeller infant who lived only one month and had apparently not been named.
Elsewhere in Lake View Cemetery’s 285 acres are the graves of early American settlers, 22 former mayors of Cleveland, soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and more than 100,000 other people.
Lake View Cemetery is a must-visit in Cleveland if, like me, you’re fascinated by historic cemeteries.
What do you think of the James Garfield tomb and John D. Rockefeller grave?