James A. Garfield Memorial exterior in Cleveland (photo by Rachael Jirousek)
Ohio Life

James A. Garfield Memorial, Cleveland

A massive and ongoing restoration of the James A. Garfield Memorial at Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery is bringing the towering tribute back to its original 1890 splendor.

The James A. Garfield Memorial stands 180 feet tall within Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery, where visitors will find the graves of other notable names, such as oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, legendary lawman Eliot Ness and radio DJ Alan Freed.

The memorial to the United States’ 20th president, who was in office less than four months before he was mortally wounded by an assassin, is the largest of all of Lake View Cemetery’s monuments. Construction began in 1885, and the memorial was finished in time for its dedication on May 26, 1890.

More than a century of harsh winters, industrial pollution, and water seeping inside the grand structure ultimately prompted the need for extensive fixes. In 2016, the cemetery began structural work in the memorial’s basement by shoring up beams and reinforcing columns and, in 2020, work began on the outside of the monument. 

“The entire exterior from top to bottom was cleaned, tuck pointed and repointed,” says Katharine Goss, president and CEO of Lake View Cemetery. “The beautiful glass windows were also completely restored.”

As work progressed, the memorial’s interior was closed, and scaffolding surrounded the entire structure as the building’s exterior was returned to its original, lighter hue. By March 2021, the second phase of the project was complete, and the monument reopened to the public.

A rotunda in the center of the memorial holds a white statue of a standing Garfield displayed on a dais in the center of the space. The chair from which he is rising was based on the one the Ohioan used during his time as a legislator. A balcony on the second floor offers an overhead view of the monument’s first level.

Ascend the stairway on the north side of the memorial to reach the interior balcony underneath the dome. Continue on the stairway to reach an outside deck that provides spectacular views of Cleveland, including downtown and Lake Erie. The bronze caskets of President Garfield and his wife, Lucretia Garfield, rest below Memorial Hall and are on public view.

“There is a tour guide inside the memorial that talks about the building and the life of President Garfield and the cemetery itself,” Goss says. “Any visitor will get a very rich experience. 

Open Wed.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., May through October; 12316 Euclid Ave., Cleveland 44106, 216/421-2665, lakeviewcemetery.com