If you follow Hennepin Avenue about six blocks south from the heart of Uptown at Hennepin and Lake Street you will come to the entrance of Lakewood Cemetery. Nestled between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet and modeled after the rural cemeteries of 19-century France, it has long been considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country. The stately administration building is clearly visible from the impressive entrance gate, but hiding behind that building is the real gem of the cemetery… Lakewood Memorial Chapel.
Designed by Harry Wild Jones, a prominent Minneapolis architect, the current Lakewood Memorial Chapel was completed in 1910. The structure was modeled after the Hagia Sophia in what is now Istanbul. It has nearly perfect acoustics, and if you speak or sing as you pass under the center of the dome you will be startled by how clearly the sound identifies the exact center.
The interior was inspired by the mosaic design of the Basilica San Marco in Venice and created by New York designer Charles Lamb. The designs were created in his studio, then six of Italy’s best mosaic artists created the more than 10 million mosaic pieces in Italy… which they then assembled personally inside the chapel in Minneapolis.
The dome with 12 suspended angels (no feet because angels never touch ground) has some of the most spectacular mosaic details, but all the upper areas of the chapel are covered in mosaic tiles, each no bigger than a fingernail.
It is the most perfect example of Byzantine mosaic art in the United States. I can’t help but think that if this building were in Europe, thousands of Americans would flock to visit it each year. It is unlikely that this could be recreated today at any price… artisans possessing the necessary skills simply no longer exist.
When private Lakewood Cemetery was founded in 1871 it was out in the country, about 2 miles south of the southern edge of Minneapolis at Franklin Avenue. Only 4 years after Minneapolis was incorporated and 13 years after Minnesota became a state, early visitors traveled to Lakewood by horse and buggy on an unpaved road.
Many Minneapolis streets, parks and monuments bear the names of Lakewood Association’s original founders, and many notable Minnesotans are buried there.
Fall is a beautiful time to visit and walk or drive through the rolling hills of Lakewood Cemetery and find many familiar names. Pick up a self-guided tour at the administration building at the entrance. Gates are open 365 days a year, 8 am – 8 pm in the summer, 8 am – 7 pm Labor Day to fall daylight savings time change, 8 am – 5 pm until spring time change.
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