A visit to Denver’s Riverside Cemetery is a walk through Colorado history. Established in 1876, the cemetery is Denver’s oldest operating cemetery, and was designated as a National Historic District in 1994. Located between Brighton Boulevard and the South Platte River, the cemetery is currently in the local news because of the potential need to relocate the entrance as RTD establishes a new commuter rail line.
The cemetery is modest and unassuming, covered mostly with wild grasses, wildflowers and weeds, due to the loss of water rights in the early 2000’s. Currently, 38 trains pass the cemetery each day, and the train whistles sound as though the train will pass directly through the visitor’s center.
The cemetery first opened its doors to the wealthy, as it offered a secluded location on the banks of the South Platte River. Large, ornate monuments mark the gravesites of some of historic Denver’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. Some notable Coloradoans buried at Riverside are Augusta Tabor, the first wife of Horace Tabor, freed slave Clara Barton, the first black woman in Colorado and one of the founders of St. James Methodist Church, Barney and Julia Ford, and several governors, such as John Evans and John Routt.
Riverside is home to close to 1000 American Civil War veterans. The military section of the cemetery is clearly different, as all gravesites are marked with a simple stone, laid in straight rows, and presided over by statues of Confederate and Union solders.
Especially interesting is the Stone House. It can be found in the oldest part of the cemetery, built from Colorado limestone, and featuring a steeply pitched roof. It’s a beautiful building, and while currently boarded up, there are plans for its renovation. Also charming is the intricate replica of miner Lester Drake’s original miner’s cabin.
Riverside Cemetery is certainly one of Denver’s hidden gems. For the Annual History Mystery Tour and Riverside Cemetery visit the Fairmount Heritage Foundation website here.