Minneapolis was only a riverfront outpost when Colonel John Stevens built the first permanent dwelling in the 1840s. By 1857, the town had only rough wooden buildings and rutted dirt roads. But in the next 20 years, Minneapolis grew fast.
Lakewood was founded in 1871, four years after Minneapolis was incorporated and 13 years after Minnesota achieved statehood. That year, Minneapolis boasted 13,000 residents and the city’s southern edge was where Franklin Avenue is today.
In July of that year, Colonel William S. King, local businessman and newspaper publisher, proposed to community leaders that they work together to establish a cemetery in Minneapolis. A month later, a group of 15 held a meeting to choose the site and determine how to finance it.
A garden cemetery
Lakewood’s founders chose a site out in the country between Lakes Harriet and Calhoun owned by Colonel King at the time. They planned to model the cemetery after other “rural” or “garden” cemeteries that were growing in popularity along the East Coast. Visitors would travel to Lakewood by horse and buggy on an unpaved road.
Colonel King agreed to sell the land for $21,000, to be paid back over a year at 7 percent interest. During a time in which a home in Minneapolis could be purchased for $500, the new trustees voted to raise $25,000 for the purchase of grounds and improvements. The money was raised by selling 250 shares of stock at $100 a piece, two-thirds of which was purchased by the trustees themselves. The remaining balance was solicited by a committee and sold to other residents of the city.
A nonprofit association
The public dedication of Lakewood was held on September 16, 1872. The following month, the Association reacquired all stock from the original investors. Roughly three years later, the Association submitted its first annual report to the lot owners of Lakewood, which stressed the cemetery’s nonprofit status. Since 1872, Lakewood has continued to exist as a public, nonprofit, nondenominational cemetery providing services to the families of Minnesota.
bookstore to order a copy of Lakewood's 143-page, full color history book and download free self-guided tour brochures.
Historical photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.