As early settlers came to Milwaukee in the 1840s, they had to make vitally important and lasting decisions without available solutions.
Soon after the city was founded in 1846, civic leaders began searching for a place where local residents could count on eternal peace. They found 72 gently rolling and forested acres that, although “far” from town, were accessible by the new Janesville Plank Road. The land was acquired, and the cemetery was named Forest Home.
In 1850, the first burial took place. A few years later, as more cherished memories were entrusted to this special place, the road that led from the growing city was renamed Forest Home Avenue.
Today, Forest Home Cemetery embraces 200 acres of dignified beauty. It contains more undeveloped land than the total area of most cemeteries in the United States. Its historical significance has earned Forest Home the designation as an official Milwaukee Landmark and a listing in the National Registry of Historic Places.
Forest Home Historic Preservation Association is dedicated to the preservation of Forest Home Cemetery as Wisconsin’s premier garden cemetery, its historical significance and creating a community resource for the greater Milwaukee area.
Support the continuing development of a quality cemetery and place remembrance for the greater Milwaukee community.
1. Sustain the natural setting of Forest Home Cemetery that promotes the quality collection of trees and plantings that define the cemetery.
2. Facilitate the restoration of historic buildings and features of the cemetery
3. Develop both annual and long-term support fiscal efforts to support the mission and operation of the cemetery.
4. Develop and facilitate community participation through programs of historical significance and interest.
In the fall of 1849, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church purchased 72 acres in the Milwaukee countryside for a cemetery that was to provide for dignified burial for the citizens of the area.
In spring of 1850, Increase Lapham visited Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA and used that cemetery as a template for the layout of Forest Home. The design is called a “garden cemetery” emphasizing the use of the natural setting, trees, and floral plantings to create a peaceful place for final rest.
The rolling topography of the cemetery reflecting Lapham’s design that respected the existing landscape. The curved roads create gentle a flow through the wide variety of monuments located around the grounds. Older cemetery monuments, generally prior to the Civil War, were made of soft stone such as marble or limestone. Over the years the Wisconsin winters and environmental factors have caused these older stones to deteriorate.
After the Civil War granite became the stone of choice due to its hardness. These markers and monuments have proven to be very durable. It should be noted that monuments are owned by the families not the cemetery.
Lapham’s design included the use of family lots of four to sixteen grave spaces, the larges, Governor Ludington, has 50 graves. The practice of family lots was popular until WWI, after that smaller lots became the standard.
Wealthy families would choose to make a statement about their success in life by placing large monuments on the family lot. Forest Home has often been called a “Monumental” cemetery due to the large array of monuments and mausoleums found on the property.
The cemetery is the final resting place for many of the “Beer Barons” and the intersection of sections 36, 37, and 40 is known as the Beer Barons Corner because the families of Schlitz (Uihlein), Pabst, and Blatz face each other at this location. See this location on our online map, or download a PDF version of the paper guide.
Walking through the cemetery, it is easy to see the streets of Milwaukee are buried at Forest Home. Names such as Plankinton, Kilbourn, Downer, Layton, Vliet, Hawley, Bartlett, Cramer, and others.
Famous industrialists are also found at Forest Home: Falk, A.O. Smith, Marnischfeger, Vilter, Pfister, Vogel, Bradley, Mitchell, Allis, Nordberg, and many others.
The book Silent City by John Gurda on the history of Forest Home is available for purchase at the office.
Board of Directors
Paul A. Haubrich, Ph.D.
Peter Slocum, MD
Columbia/St. Mary’s Hospital
Jan Van Rens
Forest Home Cemetery, Inc.
Robert B. Brumder
Robert W. Baird
Clement Finance & Leasing Group
Godfrey & Kahn
Columbia/St. Mary’s Hospital
Retired, Miller Brewing Co.