Clyde Crews, Ph.D. will lead a walking tour, “Cave Hill Walkabout: Reading Nature, Stone and Symbol,” on Sunday, April 18.
Crews has been leading these two-and-a-half-hour tours for twelve years in the spring and fall. As a professor emeritus, Catholic priest and the historian of Bellarmine University, he has a special affection for the social history surrounding the cemetery’s residents and the cemetery itself. “We try to do the most historical old sections and focus on people in Louisville history in that tour,” he says. “We see some remarkable people and tell some remarkable (true) stories.” Walkers will also examine tombstone symbolism and discuss the wide range of flora on the grounds—and etched in stone.
Cave Hill, located at 701 Baxter Ave., is a national cemetery and a local marvel, but it is but one of many dating back to a certain time in American history. “It is one of the grand cemeteries of America,” Crews says. “Every large city in the East has a large cemetery going back to the transcendentalist era”—the philosophical movement that took root in the 1840s and counted Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson among its adherents for its “love of nature, revelatory side of nature. The land itself is a beautiful land; Cave Hill was built to respect the flow of the land.”
Crews stresses that although the cemetery may be a beautiful place for one’s body to spend eternity, there’s more to it than that. He comes back to the role of Louisville in late eighteenth-century history and beyond, and its place in American history as a whole. “There's an enormous connection between the two.” He notes that in the Civil War section, there are separate areas for Union and Confederate dead. “Even in Cave Hill, you get a sense that Louisville is a border city.”
The tour runs from 1:30 to 4 p.m., and costs $45 (or $35 before April 11). Space is extremely limited; call Linda Bailey in Bellarmine’s Continuing Education office at 452-8161. In case of severely inclement weather, the tour will be rescheduled.
Photo: Flickr/Vee Dub