Oakwood Cemetery

The historic Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York features a wide variety of elaborate mausoleums and graves, along with a disused administration building, mortuary chapel, and entrance.

Designed by Howard Daniels, Oakwood Cemetery was dedicated to a crowd of several thousand in November 1859, just 11 years after Syracuse was incorporated as a city. 4 The facility featured a garden (or rural) cemetery design that had recently become popular because of overcrowding and health concerns of urban cemeteries. It incl an expanse 160-acre campus with 60 acres of dense oak forest with ash, hickory, maple, and pine trees. A crew of 60 laborers thinned and grouped the trees to create an arboretum. Subsequent additions to Oakwood Cemetery were laid out in a manner sympathetic to the original design. 1

In 1879, a mortuary chapel designed by architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee was constructed by W.M. Dickison out of Onondaga limestone with timber-work framing and wooden ceilings near the historic entrance to the cemetery. 2 4 It featured a receiving vault where bodies were storied during winter months for spring burial as the ground was too frozen to dig. An administration building for the cemetery was built near the Oakwood Avenue entrance in the Romanesque architectural style for $20,000 in 1902. 3 4

Although the cemetery became the premier resting place for Syracuse’s major figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, the luster began to fade after the construction of Interstate 81 in 1964. 4 The cemetery’s historic entrance from Oakwood Avenue was cut off by earthen fill from the interstate and new entrances were built along East Colvin Street and Comstock Avenue. The administration building was soon closed and the mortuary chapel ceased to be used by the mid-1970s with the usage of heavy earth moving equipment that could dig into the frozen earth. 2



  1. “Shades of Oakwood.” Shadesofoakdale.com, 2010.
  2. Waits, Gary. “Look inside Oakwood Cemetery’s mortuary chapel in Syracuse.” Syracuse.com, 8 Sept. 2016.
  3. Messineo, Daniel. “Tear it down or fix it up: the “Old Office” at Oakwood Cemetery.” CNY Central, 9 Nov. 2018.
  4. Moriarty, Rick. “Could I-81 project bring back abandoned gateway to historic Syracuse cemetery?” Syracuse.com, 12 Nov. 2018.

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