Monday, March 17, 2014

Cincinnati's Crematory - Hillside Chapel

I stumbled across this building while researching a nearby home for a client. A newspaper article mentioned the lots in a neighborhood in Clifton not selling well, perhaps because of its proximity to the Crematory. So I just had to dig more and find out when and where this building was built and if it was still in existence.

Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 1, 1885; pg. 8
The Crematory was constructed between 1885 and 1888. It became necessary for Cincinnati to have its own facility after cremation became an accepted form of burial for its economic and health benefits. Many people believed that causes of death could make cemeteries a place of spreading disease.

The photo above comes from the same article below which describes the plans for the Crematory:
Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 1, 1885; pg. 8
Benn Pitman was a great supporter of cremation and there was some controversy when he chose it for the burial of his wife. He purchased Italian marble from the Boyle Mansion before its demolition in 1892. By 1888, the Crematory was ready for dedication.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Nov 5, 1888; pg. 8
Click to enlarge
The Crematory was a successful business and in time, a cemetery was also built on the property, now known as the Hillside Chapel. Well-known Cincinnatians are buried here including Michael Werk (for whom Werk Road is named), Ruth Lyons, and arts patron Patricia Corbett, and other famous people were cremated here and buried elsewhere, such as "Superman" star, George Reeves. The Crematory was also an interesting place to visit for a school group from Tennessee.
Cincinnati Enquirer; April 24, 1947; p. 6b
The Cincinnati Cremation Company, made up of 41 area funeral directors, bought the crematory and mausoleum complex in 1984, however, by June of 2009, only 25 shareholders remained. Bankruptcy was filed and the complex was a risk of being taken over by the City of Cincinnati was a cemetery. In September of the same year, Don Catchen, owner of Catchen & Son Funeral Home in Elsmere, Kentucky was the winning bidder when the Cincinnati Cremation Company auctioned off of the property. It was more economical to sell the complex than to try to move all the urns held at Hillside Chapel to other cemeteries.

Additions have been added over the years, but the original building can still be seen.
Hillside Chapel made the news again in April, 2012, when an ex-employee pleaded guilty to stealing bronze urns for scrap metal. Luckily, only three of the urns had remains inside, which were left at the Chapel. Mr. Catchen replaced the missing urns for the affected families.
CAGIS Aerial View - 2011
The crematory is at center, with the mausoleum on the right.
For 126, the crematory sitting upon the hill at Martin Luther King Drive has been helping families in their time of grief, unbeknownst to most travelers on one of the busiest roads in Cincinnati. For interior pictures of the crematory, including the chapel and the retorts (both original and modern), see the slide show by Jane Andreasik of WCPO.


  1. Thanks for the research info on this, Ann. We owned our house just a couple blocks up on Dixmyth...and used to take the kids up there to enjoy the view and pretty grounds, back in the 80's. As well, the history is not what I'd known...took a look along with something else I was recently searching. Thanks!

  2. I wonder if the 3 families knew about the urns. We just discovered we may have a relative there.


These comments are moderated before published. If you are trying to reach the author of this blog, use the Contact Us form to the right.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.