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101 Things To Do In Memphis #46: Elmwood Cemetery

by Melissa Hayes Thompson

#46: Elmwood Cemetery
A tour of Elmwood Cemetery is a journey through the past as it is the most historic ground in this part of the world.  The dramatic Entry Bridge, the Carpenter-Gothic Office Cottage, the entire 80-acre cemetery, are all on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fifty Memphis gentlemen committed $500 each to purchase land and establish a new cemetery in 1852. Originally consisting of 40 acres, it was expanded after the Civil War to 80 acres. In the 1870s the original corporation was dissolved and Elmwood became one of the oldest nonprofits in Tennessee. Since then, Elmwood Cemetery has become the final resting place to over 75,000 inhabitants including mayors, governors, madams, blues singers, suffragists, martyrs, generals, civil rights leaders, holy men and women, outlaws and millionaires.

Elmwood is also an official Bird Sanctuary and Arboretum.  Established as part of the Rural Cemetery Movement, it is a classic example of a garden cemetery with its park-like setting, sweeping vistas, shady knolls, large stands of ancient trees, and magnificent monuments. The cemetery is home to almost 1,500 trees. It is a Tennessee Urban Forestry Department Level II Arboretum, and many of its trees are tagged with scientific and common names. During the Victorian Era, the popular view of death became romanticized; death was now represented by symbols including angels, flowers, and plants. These ideas are reflected in the many magnificent monuments, mausoleums and life-sized figures.There are both self-guided and docent-led Arboretum Tours available for children and adults alike.

Do you want to learn about Memphis history? Attend Elmwood University and get to know Memphis’ oldest active cemetery while you uncover a wealth of knowledge about the individuals who helped shape a small river town into a modern metropolis. Elmwood University will train students to deliver history-based tours or to preserve some of Elmwood’s oldest monuments.

Elmwood is the final resting place of those who created Memphis history and has emerged today as Memphis' finest and oldest active cemetery. Learn more at or call 901.774.3212

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Elmwood Cemetery Special Costume Twilight Tour!

by Your Key to Memphis Team

Elmwood Cemetery In honor of Armed Forces Day, Elmwood Cemetery is presenting a Special Costume Twilight Tour. The tour takes place this Saturday May 19th with tours beginning at 5 PM and again every ten minutes until 7 PM.  While on tour you will meet eight costumed actors, each telling a different story of their service to the United States. You will meet men and women that sacrificed their life for the freedoms that we often take for granted each day. Tickets are $15 per adult while children under 12 are free. You won’t want to miss this special tribute to the Memphis and Shelby county veterans buried at Elmwood Cemetery. 

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Contact Information

Photo of Melissa Thompson Real Estate
Melissa Thompson
Crye-Leike Realtors
6525 N Quail Hollow Road
Memphis TN 38120
(901) 729-9526
(901) 756-8900
Fax: (901) 435-0620