The Crown Hill Cemetery Gates


The gates and the waiting station at the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana, were designed by Adolph Scherrer in 1885—a busy year for him, as he was also supervising the construction of the Italian Renaissance-style Indiana Capitol building.

The gates are Gothic Revival. Gothic is a term that was adopted during the Renaissance to describe the architectural style that dominated European church construction from about 1150 to 1500 A.D. Italian writer Giorgio Vasari first used the term as a pejorative. He believed that architectural style was vulgar and blamed the “Goths” for destroying much of the ancient and classical buildings for the newer “Gothic” style buildings.

The Gothic-styled churches were meant to give the viewer a sense of height.  The long thin pinnacles, the vaulted ceilings, and the pointed arches stretch upward toward the Heavens to touch the face of God.  This was extreme architecture meant to be awe inspiring.


Here the gates mimic that sense of height and grandeur with elements found in traditional Gothic architecture. The pointed arch, a characteristic Gothic design was part of the transformation away from the Romanesque rounded arch and heavy design. It gives the gates a light airy feeling. Another feature common to Gothic architecture is the tracery decorating the arch. The triangles above the arches display quatrefoils—A Latin word that translates to four leaves, another common element in Gothic-style architecture.

The red brick building, built that same year, is the waiting station. Before everyone travelled in individual cars, they could ride a trolley to the cemetery. There they would wait for the rest of the funeral party to gather before entering the cemetery and following the casket together to the grave. The waiting station is trimmed in limestone with repeating Gothic arches framing the porch.


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4 Responses to The Crown Hill Cemetery Gates


    I love this post…I am fascinated by gates! I take pictures of them all the time! Don’t ask me why…here’s one from the Vanderbilt Marble House we visited this fall.

  2. What is the architectural term for the small blocks of stone always placed on the sides Gothic arches and other elements, like those on the The Crown Hill Cemetery Gates?

    • I think they are buttresses added to lend support to the arch. In cathedrals with very high arches flying buttresses were added to take stress away from the forces pushing down on the arch.

  3. Not the buttreses, these are definitely ornamental. I mean the small stones that are about the size and sometimes the shape of stones used as dentils in a different building use. They’re used as ornamentation on the outside of the arches and tall spires. At the link below, you can see ornamentation on the outside of the center element that is similar to what I’m talking about – although the stones are not shaped as blocks of stone but as carved pieces:

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