Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery
The Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery Foundation (FOGCF)n is a 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to restoring, preserving and enhancing the beauty, architectural integrity, monuments and horticulture of Greenlawn Cemetery, while providing a historically restored, beautiful and peaceful place for the general public.
A group of like-minded members of the Portsmouth community met in March 2017 with the shared desire to partner with the City of Portsmouth in a restoration and preservation endeavor for the 40-acre Greenlawn Cemetery. Established in 1829, Greenlawn is presently home to 85,000-plus graves and hundreds of horticulture species. The FOGCF realized one hundred percent of the funds raised would need to be focused on the mission and every quarter would need to be stretched to one dollar.
Since that original meeting, the FOGCF has partnered with several organizations and the Scioto Foundation to complete several large infrastructure projects with a dollar total of $331,750.00..
Did you know?
As of July 2021, more than 19,300 volunteer hours by local citizens have been spent at Greenlawn since the summer of 2017 when the FOGCF initiated their first projects. On any given day as you visit Greenlawn Cemetery, you will probably find a member of the FOGCF working on a project.
In addition, local schools, 4-H Clubs, church groups, and hundreds of your friends and neighbors have “rolled up their sleeves” to be part of this mission.
Many of the projects have been major including the complete chapel restoration that would require a new slate roof, stabilization of the stone walls, tuck-pointing the exterior and new plaster interior. This would also require a complete new electric service to allow for updated lighting and an HVAC system. The chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it was so very important to ensure each aspect of the restoration would be as near to the original as physically possible.
The importance of handcrafting new windows and doors that look exactly like the originals and the installation of each of the 200-pound oak front entry doors would hopefully ensure the structure last another 150 years. If you looked at drawings from the 1880’s chapel and the chapel as it stands today, you would be pleased to see the extreme attention to detail. This project was funded through the proceeds of the Story of Us I, II, Portsmouth Area Ladies (PALS), Will and Barb Burke, WAI Construction Group and countless other donors.
Watching the transformation of the perimeter cast iron fence from silver back to its’ original black was just incredible. Hundreds of local citizens showed up on weekends and evenings to power wash, scrape and paint. The fence was originally installed in the 1880’s by the Stewart Fence Company from Cincinnati, the same company that installed the fencing at the White House and countless other historical sites across the country.
This is the same company that recently forged and erected the Greenlawn Cemetery Archway that graces the Offnere Street entrance. The original archway had disappeared sometime in the past and it was exciting to watch the restoration of the Offnere Street entrance be completed. This project was a partnership with the Portsmouth Rotary Club in honor of their 100th anniversary.
The importance of establishing an “Information Board” was to address the needs of the thousands of visitors who come to Greenlawn each year. The map was created by local educators April Deacon and Sheree Price and is housed under an oversized pergola area to provide protection from the weather. This project was a partnership with the Scioto Foundation, Will and Barb Burke and the FOGCF.
The FOGCF recently partnered with Shawnee State University and Logan Minter to catalog and digitize the tremendous number of horticulture species on site at Greenlawn Cemetery. Soon, the public will be able to utilize their smart phones while walking throughout the grounds to identify many of the trees and shrubs. This project was a partnership with the Scioto Foundation, SSU and the FOGCF.
Digitizing the massive number of cemetery records is an ongoing project. The Scioto Foundation has worked with us through the many different phases including constructing new, working maps that can be uploaded and soon GIS/GPS tagged. With more than 85,000 graves on site, this project will hopefully be completed by mid 2022.
The Serenity Garden located adjacent to the chapel was a partnership with Southern Ohio Medical Center. Completed in 2020, the garden provides an additional place for individuals to reflect and to remember those who have passed.
The annual Christmas Memorial Event is held each year in early December. This free-to-the public event provides an opportunity for individuals to gather in fellowship with others to remember those who have passed away. Memorial ornaments, refreshments and music is provided. A lighted tree is placed near the entrance where individuals can place a memorial ornament. The tree remains lighted throughout the holiday season.
Another annual event is the Easter Sunrise Service that has continued to grow in popularity. Music and message are shared at the Chapel entrance. In addition to in-person, the Easter Sunrise Service is live-streamed and has exceed 11,000 views.
*Installation of a new “Greenlawn Cemetery” steel archway over the Offnere Street Entrance - partnership with Portsmouth Rotary Club
• Installation of an oversized pergola style “Information Center” at the entrance
• Installation of a life-sized map of the Cemetery at the entrance
• New flagpoles and flags at the Grant Street Entrance
• Newly constructed cemetery maps from the older maps has been completed by
Pontem Cemetery Mapping/Software
• Worked cooperatively with SSU/Logan Minter on digitizing trees and horticulture
• Installed new mini-split HVAC System in the Chapel to enable year-round use of
the facility - partnership with Lute Plumbing and BB and E
• Complete restoration of the Greenlawn Cemetery Chapel (presently on the list
of National Historic Places)
• Construction of a Serenity Garden adjacent to the Chapel - partnership with SOMC
• Repair and paint restoration of the cast iron fencing surrounding the 40 acre site
• Installation of period specific cast iron benches throughout the site
• New Concrete Planters at the Offnere Street Entrance
• New Garden Area near the Office - partnership with Portsmouth Garden Club
• Cleaned hundreds of monuments
• Digitizing of all graves and monuments with GPS GIS Mapping
• Continued monument repair
• Improving entryways with landscaping
• Continued cleanup and touch-up painting on the fencing, etc.
• Installation of steel “Section Markers” to identify the individual areas
• Installation of “Period Specific Lighting” on the brick roadway between Offnere
Street and Soldier’s Circle
• The complete restoration of Soldier’s Circle. This will include raising/repairing/cleaning and digitizing every single Soldier’s monument. In addition, the Statue of the Union Soldier that was placed in the center of Soldier’s Circle in 1889 will be
restored and the concrete repaired. The approximately 30 flagpoles that flank the entry and perimeter of Soldier’s Circle will be replaced with new, heavier poles.
• The Story of Us, IV “The Sexton’s Diaries”, the fourth in the series of annual outdoor dramas, will be held October 10, 2021. “The Story of Us” is the lone annual fundraiser conducted by the FOGCF except for 2020 due to COVID restrictions. The production is held on site in the cemetery before a sellout crowd of nearly 1,000 individuals in two performances
• Continued community and organization historical tours
• Annual Christmas Memorial Tree and Fellowship Event
• Installation of large, historical markers to provide information about the
Individual sections, the Founders, the fence and archways, Potter’s
Field, Babyland and countless other parts of the cemetery
• Complete restoration of the two large mausoleums located in the Holy Redeemer
Section near the intersection of Kinney’s Lane and Offnere Streets
• Restoration of the Levi D. York, Thomas Moore, Burke and other smaller
Mausoleums located throughout the site
• Developing a plan to plant trees to offset the significant number of trees lost
due to age and weather
• Develop a history program in cooperation with local elementary schools to provide local Ohio history coursework
• Art shows, poetry readings and on-site lectures
• Recognition of Veterans
Contact Info for Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery:
Address: P.O. Box 333, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662
Matching donation period will be available Oct. 21, 2021 from 8am - 8pm EDT.