In the heart of the Montford Historic District is 87 acres of rolling hills and parkland dotted with monuments to Asheville’s most illustrious residents. What more fitting place to take a walk on this Halloween weekend than a cemetery! This easy hike through the tombstones is anything but scary, though! The hillsides are filled with beautiful trees and shrubs, lovely views and grave markers and mausoleums that are beautiful and fascinating sculptures as well as tributes to the dead. The historic Riverside Cemetery was established in the summer of 1885 and remains an active cemetery run by the city of Asheville since the 1950s.
The list of notable residents of the cemetery is long and includes famous authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter, known by his pen name O. Henry, as well as a bodyguard to Abraham Lincoln, James H. Posey and Queen Carson, Asheville’s first female public school principal. They share the lovely shaded hills with Confederate generals and prominent citizens. Oliver Davis Revell, the entrepreneur who built the Queen Anne Victorian that is now A Bed of Roses B&B, occupies a prominent spot accompanied by his wife the former Caroline Gray.
Even though the cemetery was started in the Victorian period, the oldest tombstone is dated 1814 and marks the grave of John Lyon, a famous English botanist who lived here for many years and collected rare plants to ship to English gardens. His grave was moved three times until finding it’s final resting place in Riverside Cemetery. Several other graves were removed from previous burial grounds and reinterred at Riverside.
On a recent beautiful fall day I took a walk there with my camera. The photos can be seen in our photo gallery. I’ve always been particularly fascinated with mausoleums and there are several impressive ones at Riverside. Peering through their gates you can see the intricate stained glass windows designed to be illuminated from the outside and viewed only by the mausoleum’s inhabitants.
The door of one notable mausoleum is a striking and elegant sculpture in itself. The Green mausoleum, made entirely of marble is the work of a craftsman involved in the construction of the Biltmore Estate. A stone carver for the Biltmore, Fred Miles, carved the Buchanan family’s angel from limestone left over from the construction of the Biltmore Estate.
Audio tours of the historic cemetery are available on CD at the Asheville Visitors center or the Pack Place Information Desk on Pack Square. Asheville Historic Tours has also released an iPhone ap to allow visitors to tour the cemetery guided by their iPhones! It is available at the App Store or iTunes. The virtual tour can also be downloaded as an MP3 file at www.history-at-hand.com.