(ODD)yssey

Fascinating abandoned chapel, monuments of Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery

I was looking through some old photos recently and came across pictures from a trip I took to Nashville with Sweetums in 2013. We did a few ordinary touristy things but of course we also had to take a walk through the gorgeous Mount Olivet Cemetery off Lebanon Pike. It’s a large garden-style cemetery with more than 38,000 graves.

We saw some fascinating grave stones but the most interesting thing by far was a dilapidated abandoned chapel. It was so pretty and the architecture was so intriguing. It was surrounded by a chain-link fence because it was dangerous to enter. I forgot to look up its history when we got home so I did some research last night.

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The ca. 1870 chapel at Mount Olivet Cemetery in 2013. It burned in 2015. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

I was saddened to read the chapel was badly, probably irreparably, damaged by fire in 2015. I could find no further articles so I don’t know if it was demolished or if the ruins were preserved.

The Gothic Revival-style chapel was built in the 1870s, with later additions, and historians believe it was designed by Hugh Cathcart Thompson, who designed the Ryman Auditorium. The chapel had been designated at National Historic Landmark and a group was hoping to restore it before the fire.

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The belfry of the abandoned chapel at Mount Olivet Cemetery in 2013. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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The abandoned chapel at Mount Olivet Cemetery in 2013. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

The building served as the chapel and cemetery offices until 1906. Hopefully, I can find more information and post an update.

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The abandoned chapel at Mount Olivet Cemetery in 2013. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Undated photo of the Mount Olivet Chapel.

The cemetery also has some unique monuments. One of the most unusual is the burial site of Vernon King Stevenson (1812-1884), a railroad magnate and founder of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. He is buried in a replica of Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb in Paris, with the exception of the color. Napoleon’s tomb is made of red stone.

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The Vernon King Stevenson monument in Mount Olivet Cemetery is a replica of Napolean Bonapart’s tomb. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

Another odd grave monument is a pyramid flanked by two small sphinx statues. It marks the grave of Major Eugene Lewis, a civil engineer with the railroad and builder of Nashville’s famous Parthenon replica – or the original replica, at any rate. Lewis, an engineer with the Nashville built the replica of plaster and wood as the centerpiece of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It was replaced by the current concrete version in 1920.  Lewis died in 1917.

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The grave of Major Eugene Lewis in Mount Olivet Cemetery (Source: MB via FindaGrave.com)
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A grave marker in Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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A grave marker in Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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A grave marker in Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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There were several mausoleums built into hillsides in Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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A mausoleum in Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

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