Thursday, March 12, 2009

Louisville's Much-Abused Eastern Cemetery Again Struck by Vandals

Eastern Cemetery Vandals Strike Again
Martha Elson ~ Courier Journal (Louisville) ~ 3/11/09 ~ p. A5

Charles Cecil has long been concerned about vandalism at Eastern Cemetery on Baxter Avenue, and he was especially upset to see new graffiti on the old chapel and crematory building near Payne Street.

"That's a hideous thing to see on that wall," said Cecil, a longtime block watch captain on Rogers Street, across Baxter from Eastern. "It's so vivid."

Cecil's father-in-law, who also lives on Rogers Street, has relatives - including his mother - who are buried there, Cecil said.

There have been new efforts over the past year to protect the cemetery, and barbed wire will be installed soon along a wall near Payne Street to help keep out intruders, said Allison Martin, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office.

Much of the debris from recent wind and ice storms also should be cleaned up when mowing begins in the spring, she said. The attorney general's office oversees a small endowment fund that is used to pay Dismas Charities, a residential correctional facility, for mowing and basic maintenance at Eastern and two other cemeteries.

Eastern was abandoned about 20 years ago after numerous management problems. Jefferson Circuit Court is now the conservator of the property, working with the attorney general's consumer protection division in Louisville and with Metro officials, Martin said.

The attorney general's office has worked to step up police patrols, Martin said.

Arrests have been made in recent months, said Tara Long, legislative aide to Metro Councilman Tom Owen. Until the newest graffiti incident, it had been "quiet for quite a while," she said.

A "summit" involving public officials was held at the cemetery about a year ago, and Owen and Metro Council members Tina-Ward Pugh and David Tandy collaborated to provide $1,948 from their neighborhood project funds for improvements to Eastern.

The money was spent to purchase the barbed wire and put concrete blocks in the windows of the crematory building.

Signs also were added at the Baxter entrance and in the rear saying: "By Court Order - No Trespassing between the hours 8 p.m.-6 a.m. Violators will be prosecuted."

Cecil said vandals also have ripped off brass lettering on the crematory building and an electrical box that once supplied power to the building. "They think there's something in the building that they haven't got out yet," he said.

Cecil also would like to see citizens come together to paint over the graffiti or possibly have a mural painted on the building. He said he would even like to take over the deed to the crematory building and convert it to a block watch center.

But citizens would need to petition the Circuit Court and obtain approval to make improvements, Martin said.

Reporter Martha Elson can be reached at (502) 582-7061 or

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