Kurt's Historic Sites

James A. Garfield's Grave

James A. Garfield

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Cleveland, OH June 21, 2005 22nd President visited

Photographed June 21, 2005.

I think it unlikely that any grave I see going forward will strike me as more visually interesting than the James A. Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. It marks the interment site of a leader who distinguished himself during nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, but was was gunned down before he could make any substantive contributions as president. The slain chief executive’s body was held for nearly a decade in a receiving vault while the Garfield Monument Association raised funds, solicited designs, and had the tomb constructed. He was laid to rest inside the 180-foot sandstone structure on May 20, 1890. Former First Lady Lucretia Rudolph Garfield — a widow for 36 years — joined her husband within the crypt in 1918.

Cold weather visitors to the Rock and Roll Capital of the World may be disappointed to find the extravagant Garfield Memorial locked — under normal circumstances it is open only from April until November. If you find yourself at Lake View Cemetery during the off season, you can still stop by the graves of businessman John D. Rockefeller, athlete Ray Chapman, Secretary of State John Hay, and disc jockey Alan Freed. There is also a cenotaph for lawman Eliot Ness, whose ashes were spread in one of the cemetery’s ponds in 1997.

Photographed June 21, 2005.
James A. Garfield's Grave
Photographed June 21, 2005.

James and Lucretia Garfield are the only former first couple whose caskets are neither buried in the ground nor enclosed with sarcophagi. They are kept on stone platforms in the crypt. Immediate access to the caskets is not typical, which made the venture inside the gated enclosure even more special for me.

Fast Facts

Born: November 19, 1831 in Orange Township, Ohio

Spouse: Lucretia Rudolph Garfield (m. 1858-1881)

Highest Military Rank: Major General — U.S. Army

Political Affiliation: Republican Party

House Tenure: 1863-1880

Presidential Tenure: 1881

Vice President: Chester A. Arthur

Died: September 19, 1881 in Long Branch, New Jersey

Cause of Death: Gunshot Wound Infection

Age: 49

Last Words: “Oh, Swaim, there is a pain here. Oh, Swaim!”

Interment: Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

"I close the year with a sad conviction that I am bidding good-bye to the freedom of private life, and to a long series of happy years, which I fear terminate with 1880."
- James Garfield

December 31, 1880 in a diary entry written as president-elect


Sources Consulted and Further Reading

@garfieldnps. “From President-elect Garfield’s diary, Dec. 31, 1880.” Instagram, December 31, 2021. Accessed January 12, 2022. https://www.instagram.com/p/CYJYn-GLn5O/.

Lamb, Brian and the staff of C-SPAN. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Rev. ed. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

National Park Service. “Cell Phone Tours At James A. Garfield National Historic Site.” Updated April 6, 2022. https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/cell-phone-tours-at-james-a-garfield-national-historic-site.htm.

Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.

Join a community of water activists
Join a community of water activists