“Mount Washington Cemetery: In Search of Lost Time” is available by calling the Mt. Washington office at (816) 252-4141. The office is currently closed to the public indefinitely due to COVID-19.
If you’ve ever driven past Mt. Washington Cemetery and wondered if anyone famous is buried there, the members of the Mt. Washington Cemetery Historical Society have done their research and provided the answers in a new book, “Mount Washington Cemetery: In Search of Lost Time.”
The historic cemetery was founded over 100 years ago, on the site of a former amusement park. The 400 acres are bounded by US 24 (Winner Road) and Truman Road, just east of I-435. Noted landscape architect George Kessler designed the original cemetery grounds, incorporating the natural topography of the area.
Photographer and president of the cemetery’s historical society Bruce Mathews formed the group in August of 2019 to raise awareness and preserve the area’s monuments and assets, namely the William Rockhill Nelson Memorial Chapel, built in 1917.
“While the immediate goal is to raise money for the restoration of the Nelson chapel, there is an even a much broader goal to be addressed,” Mathews said. “Mount Washington is such a treasure, particularly when it comes to telling the story of our community. It has seen its ups and downs since the first burial in 1902. We hope that “Mount Washington Cemetery: In Search of Lost Time” will help elevate the awareness of its historical significance. It also serves as a celebration of the lives of so many who sacrificed so much for us. It is a book of understanding where we came from. It is also a book of healing and moving forward.”
Mathews has also compiled histories of two other Kansas City-area cemeteries, Elmwood and Union, in recent years.
“They all share stories of our ancestors who have played unique roles in making Kansas City a better place to live,” Mathews said. “Families also overlap in the three cemeteries. The thing that really has struck me in researching the people buried in Mount Washington is how so many of them saw their lives played out on such a national scale. With so many wonderful stories to share this book is much larger than the other two. Elmwood and Union are around 220 pages. The Mount Washington book page count is 336.”
Mathews’ beautiful photos share space with historical photos and biographies of the notables that rest in the cemetery, including many that once called Northeast home. Flavel B. Tiffany, builder of the Tiffany Castle, the Heim family, founders of the Heim Brewery, and the Scarritt, Chick and Hendrix families that once owned the land that is now Cliff Drive all rest amongst the cemetery’s rolling hills. In addition to contributing writer Judith King, 35 patrons contributed funds or research toward the book’s compilation and publication, including Northeast News Publisher Michael Bushnell.
“I am happy to report that we have raised enough to pay for the printing of the book, and to repair the Nelson chapel roof,” Mathews said. “That work was completed the first week of November. That was our first priority, to stop water from getting inside the building. We still have much to do, such as: additional stone work inside and outside; landscaping; repair of the original doors; improve security; replicate a beautiful dedicatory plaque that vandals made off with years ago; and file an application to have the chapel placed on the National Register of Historic Places. We will take these one at a time, securing competitive bids as we go. We are in this for the long haul. The building is structurally sound after over 100 years. We have been told by professionals that by getting the water stopped from entering the building, there is every reason to believe it will still be around for another 200 years, given the proper [tender, loving care] it deserves.”
“Mount Washington Cemetery: In Search of Lost Time” was released on Nov. 16 and is now available for purchase. Copies can be ordered at the historical society’s website, www.mwchs.org, or at the cemetery office, 614 S. Brookside, by calling (816) 252-4141. The price is $34.95.