Plans for the Western Cemetery began in 1846. At that time plans included a chapel and a residence for the cemetery superintendent. The lots were very moderately priced at $5 for an 8’ x 10’ area. The ground was purchased by the Baltimore City station of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The grounds were the former county residence of Mr. Edward Patterson.
Three years later, December 1849, the Maryland General Assembly passed “An Act to Establish the Western Cemetery” allowing the Trustees of the Fayette Street Methodist Episcopal Church to open a ‘public or nondenominational 55-acre cemetery west of the city of Baltimore County. The intent was to establish a park-like cemetery like the one on the other side of town, Green Mount Cemetery.
Early burials were both city and county residents and from various socio-economic backgrounds. One of the most publicized is that of a group of Union soldiers that were stationed in Baltimore and were likely soldiers recovering from injuries received at the Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861, died from typhoid were buried at Western.
Baltimore City, in 1915, acquired a portion of the property, which included the railroad crossing at the entrance to Western on Cemetery Lane.
The cemetery continued to serve as a popular place of internment for military veterans and police officers during the 20th century. In July 1926, the Sun reported on a huge crowd of “several thousand persons” who attended the burial of Patrolman Webster E. Schumann, noting, “A full firing squad of eight men from Camp Meade fired three volleys into the air and a bugler sounded ‘taps’ as the services for the war veteran ended.”
Just as with Mt. Carmel and Trinity with the building of I95, the area around Western Cemetery became a prime spot for a highway, in the case the East-West Expressway. It was relatives of the interred and environmental activists that fought the extension of the highway and finally urged then Mayer Thomas D’Alesandra to persuade designers to consider an alternate route.
Problems arose again for the cemetery in 2014 when a retaining wall collapsed on the southern end. The fall was the result of a severe storm. The resulting erosion also affected the Gwynns Falls Trail. Funding was secured to amend or at least stabilize the wall and eliminate the pollution, but ensuing arguments surrounding responsibility for the property led to continued delays.
On our visit to the cemetery on Friday the 13th of March was good. There were many spots of deterioration and you certainly could see the aging of the cemetery, but the grounds were clear and we saw no debris. The lawn was kept clear except for in the back area where many of the stones were becoming enveloped by the bramble. There appeared to be a large population of Germans in this area and it was certainly one of the oldest sections of the cemetery.
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Cemetery Contact Information:
3001 Edmondson Avenue & Longwood Avenue