This historic urban cemetery occupies grounds on the north side of East Ninth Street immediately opposite Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field), home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. The burial grounds’ name pays tribute to the original name of East Ninth Street.
Prior to the 1820s, decedents of the growing village of Cleveland were often buried in an informal plot south of what is now Public Square. The purchase of a generous parcel of land from Leonard Case, Sr. enabled the village trustees to shift burials farther from the heart of the community. The parcel proved so generous that a poorhouse and hospital occupied some of the land, as did a gunpowder storage facility. Later city administrations also pared away at Erie Street Cemetery in the construction of ringing streets.
The Cemetery was resting grounds for Clevelanders of all faiths, until various other denominational and public cemeteries, such as the Willett Street Cemetery of 1840, the Woodland Cemetery of 1853, and the Highland Park Cemetery of 1904, were developed. Erie Street Cemetery remained a hot political topic for more than a century, as some fought to preserve the pioneer heritage of its graves and markers, while others strove to convert the burial grounds to different ‘more appropriate’ city-center uses.
The 1925 determination by the city administration of William Hopkins to align the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge to preserve the Erie Street Cemetery was key to the facility’s survival to the present day. The Cemetery was rededicated in 1940, after substantial improvement under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs of the Depression era.
The burial grounds are studded with erect and toppled gravestones, markers and mausoleums. Interred at Erie Street Cemetery are such notable early Clevelanders as Lorenzo and Rebekah Carter; city Mayors Joshua Mills, John Allen, George Hoadley and Josiah Harris; and both the Iroquois Chief Thunderwater, and the Indian Sauk Chief, Joc-O-Sot, ‘The Walking Bear’.
Today, the stone base of the Cemetery’s perimeter wrought iron fence makes a wonderful family seating grounds along the east side of East Ninth Street from which to watch the frequent fireworks displays that culminate Tribe games at Progressive Field (still ‘The Jake’ to many Clevelanders). From this vantage, the pyrotechnic displays loft above Old Glory furling in the evening breeze, casting flashing highlights on a multitude of skyscraper flanks ringing the city center.