Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation manages five public cemeteries including Meadow View, Western, Portland, Manslick and River Valley. In total, these five cemeteries amount to 35.685 acres.
The first public cemetery was located on Jefferson Street between Eleventh and Twelfth and was used as early as 1786. This earliest burial ground is referred to as the Upper Jefferson Street Cemetery. By 1820 this first cemetery was found to be filling up so fast that a need for additional burial space was soon to come. The site was made into a city park in 1880 and named Baxter Square for the mayor at the time.
The second burial ground, Western Cemetery (approximately 10.2 acres), was established in 1830 between Fifteenth and Eighteenth Streets on Jefferson and referred to as the Lower Jefferson, or pioneer, cemetery. The first Louisville city directory in 1832 includes a map by E. D. Hobbs that shows the "New Burying Ground." This second public burying ground officially closed in 1893, and many of those buried there were removed to other cemeteries. Today much of this cemetery lies in ruins, and only a few records remain. Many of the earliest citizens were laid to rest in this pioneer cemetery.
Some few years after the opening of Western, a need for a new burying ground in the east was realized. The Johnston family farm, called Cave Hill, was purchased. The cemetery was dedicated on July 25, 1848. Cave Hill, located at 701 Baxter Avenue contains the largest number of burials to date.
Western Cemetery has approximately 5,000 plots. Currently, the cemetery is at capacity. From what we’ve gathered from the history published in the Encyclopedia of Louisville, we believe this is the second oldest public cemetery in Louisville and one we (Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation) inherited. We are unsure of the agreement date.
The Portland Cemetery (approximately 8.6 acres) was located at Thirty-sixth and Pflanz Ave. A deed to the city of Portland was entered in 1847 by John Rowan for four acres of land to be used as a family graveyard. However, an early grave marked 1828 suggests that the graveyard may have existed prior to this 1847 date. The city of Louisville acquired possession of the cemetery in 1852 when Portland was annexed by Louisville. It contains the graves of many French families who were prominent in the early development of this area, as well as many other nationalities that played important roles.
Portland Cemetery has 8,368 plots. Currently, the cemetery is at capacity. Like Western Cemetery, this is another old cemetery. It was privately managed by several different organizations before Metro Parks & Recreation inherited the management of the property. Again, we’re unsure of the agreement date. Portland Cemetery is located at 3534 Pflanz Avenue.
Manslick Cemetery (approximately 7.2 acres) was originally on the grounds of Louisville’s “Home of Aged and Infirmed” opened in 1874, and then was referred to as the “Alms House Cemetery”. The main entrance to the Home was on 7th Street, and at some point the cemetery name was subsequently changed to “7th Street Cemetery”. The Home closed in 1953, and the cemetery name was changed again to Manslick, the name of the road which bordered the Home property to the east. Manslick Road was later rerouted and the largest part of the cemetery is now located between Manslick & Old Manslick Roads with the rest located north of Old Manslick. Ca1987, with the Manslick Cemetery at capacity, Louisville opened River Valley Cemetery as its cemetery for the poor.
Manslick Cemetery has 1,220 plots, and reached capacity in 1987. The cemetery is located at 3700 Manslick Road.
River Valley Cemetery (approximately 7.3 acres). It was built to bury those who die without next of kin or without the money to pay for a service (indigent). Joyce Tandy Johnson, born in 1943 and died 12/17/1987 became the first person buried there. Some refer to the cemetery as the Potter's Field for the homeless and indigent in Louisville. Potter’s Field is a religious terminology but is an often used phrase to describe a burial place for those with no discernible connections.
Our records indicate that River Valley Cemetery has 1,287 plots, and it reached capacity around 2008. The cemetery is located at 5400 Old Cane Run Road.
Meadow View Cemetery (2.385 acres) has 568 plots. Meadow View opened in 2010. Currently (Oct. 2015), there are 500 burial spaces remaining. The cemetery is located at 11620 Deering Road.
MEADOW VIEW FUNERAL PAVILION
Metro Louisville’s coroner, in partnership with the park district and several local high schools, established a remarkable program that offers a non-denominational memorial service and burial to the homeless and those without adequate means. No member of this community is ever laid to rest alone, as student volunteers serve as pall bearers year round. Surviving off only minimal government investment and private donations, the program had outgrown a previous indigent cemetery and shifted to a more prominent neighborhood location that sought a civic presence. A pro bono collaboration of designers and builders utilized 100% donated, off the shelf materials to assemble a shelter that celebrates daylight yet strives to remain introspective.
Components were assembled to minimize construction waste and facilitate easy repair. By inverting the more traditional gabled roof and incorporating light-diffusing glass, sunlight floods the underside of the structure and gives users a more direct, symbolic connection to the sky, while rainwater cascades into a drywell at the far end of the building. The casket stand is centered beneath the roof to allow concelebrants to gather on all sides, further reinforcing the program’s mission that regardless of a person’s circumstance in life, everyone deserves to be shown respect in death.
INDIGENT BURIAL PROGRAM
Counties across Kentucky, like much of the country, are seeing more cases of unclaimed bodies and families who can't afford to bury or cremate a loved one. Every situation is unique, but coroners and local government officials tell a similar story: The economic downturn has left many people without the money to pay for funeral services that can cost thousands of dollars, and it's falling on cities and states to cover the bills. According to some accounts, indigent burials cost taxpayers approximately $500-700.00 each. At Meadow View Cemetery, Metro Parks & Recreation pays for maintenance and upkeep while volunteers conduct the services.
Deputy Coroner Buddy Dumeyer is the coordinator of the Indigent Burial Program. He partners with The St. Joseph of Arimathea Society and a variety of local high schools, colleges, and funeral homes to provide burial services for homeless who enter the city morgue whose family or friends cannot be located. Dumeyer arranges for volunteer high school and college students to meet at Louisville’s city-run cemeteries to serve as pall-bearers and funeral attendees for the indigent, solitary individuals with whom the Coroner’s Office comes into contact. The program has become one of the core objectives of the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.