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Have research into Greenlawn Cemetery? The city wants to hear from you.

The site where Greenlawn Cemetery was formerly located is pictured Monday, April 15, 2024, on the near southwest side of downtown Indianapolis. (Photo by Gary Watson for Mirror Indy)

INDIANAPOLIS (MIRROR INDY) — With an event, a new website and a call for research, the city of Indianapolis is entering the next phase of public engagement on a project that overlaps with a portion of the city’s first public cemetery.

The Henry Street bridge project will connect the Elanco headquarters development at the site of the former GM Stamping Plant to Kentucky Avenue on the east side of the White River. Department of Public Works officials will discuss updates related to the project at 5 p.m. June 24 at Edison School of the Arts Inc. 47 at 777 S. White River Parkway Drive W.

[The search for who’s buried at Greenlawn Cemetery, before it’s too late]

Officials will also share some of the latest historical research collected by its consultants and members of the Community Advisory Group, which was organized by the city in response to concerns about the site’s history.

The city’s project will overlap with two of four historic cemeteries collectively known as Greenlawn Cemetery. As Indianapolis grew, industrial interests closed in on the cemeteries. Much of the larger site was most recently occupied by the Diamond Chain complex, which was recently demolished to make way for the proposed Eleven Park development.

Construction crews have uncovered human remains at the site several times over the last century. The city revealed in January that workers had uncovered a bone from an adult human’s right hand during utility exploration in July 2023. On the Eleven Park site, developer Keystone Group recently reported finding 87 burials and more than 82 additional isolated bones during the demolition of the Diamond Chain complex, according to public records obtained by Mirror Indy.

“This site has a long, complicated and unfortunate history,” DPW director Brandon Herget said in a press release. 

His department has also launched a website to host updates on the project. Members of the public can now submit their own research to the city as well.

“We have made commitments to the community to go above and beyond state law when it comes to this project, and this extensive research into who remains buried at the site is part of that,” Herget said. “We now hope to incorporate the greater Indianapolis community into this effort.”

[Former Greenlawn Cemetery should be park or memorial, Hogsett says]

City consultants recently uncovered records that show the Indiana Institute of the Blind purchased lots for student burials in the New Burying Ground, also called Union Cemetery, in 1853. The school later purchased lots in Crown Hill Cemetery and reinterred some if not all of their burials there in the 1870s.

Research is also ongoing into the history of African American burials at the cemetery. 

“There is so much that has been undocumented and therefore unknown about Black life in Indianapolis and this cemetery is a treasure trove of this history,” said Eunice Trotter, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Black Heritage Preservation Program.

The city’s outreach efforts come as the future of Eleven Park portion of the site remains uncertain. City leaders are now backing an alternative location for a professional soccer stadium in a bid to attract a Major League Soccer franchise to Indianapolis. The city has cited the historic cemetery as one reason it pursued a different location and has offered to buy the site from Keystone.

Reach Mirror Indy reporter Emily Hopkins at 317-790-5268 or emily.hopkins@mirrorindy.org. Follow them on most social media @indyemapolis.