June 6, 2024

City seeks public input on historic Greenlawn Cemetery site

An historic map of Indianapolis shows the Greenlawn Cemetery site. - Courtesy of Indiana University Indianapolis

An historic map of Indianapolis shows the Greenlawn Cemetery site.

Courtesy of Indiana University Indianapolis

In an ongoing effort to learn about a historic site where the first public cemetery was established in Indianapolis, the city wants the public to contribute information on a new website.

The city has spent the last year working with a community advisory group to study the riverfront site where Greenlawn Cemetery was built in the 1800’s.

Thousands of bodies were removed from Greenlawn in the 1870's and reburied, but many more were never moved. Bodies have been found there a number of times throughout the last hundred years – and the site is where Indianapolis’s first African American residents were laid to rest.

In a statement, Indianapolis Department of Public Works Director Brandon Herget said the site has a long, complicated history.

"The former Greenlawn Cemetery has been negatively compromised by industrial development for well over a century," Herget said. "We have made commitments to the community to go above and beyond state law when it comes to this project, and this extensive research into who remains buried at the site is part of that."

The city owns part of the property where a bridge across the White River is planned and is soliciting input from anyone who may know about the history of the cemetery. The property is also where an Indy Eleven stadium had been planned but that development is now in jeopardy.

Research so far has shed light on family genealogy but has also found discrepancies in deeds and other records. The community is invited to submit photos, records and other documentation onto the website. Submissions may also be part of future memorializations.

The new dedicated web page for the White River Innovation District Infrastructure project includes existing research, photos and other information about the history of development on the site.


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