Riverside Cemetery, located at 3607 Pearl Road, has maintained its founding promise of a tranquil resting place for Cleveland's West Side citizens, despite the urban sprawl that has grown up around it. Conceived in 1875, and opened in 1876, Riverside Cemetery gave the West Side its first garden-style, "major sized, non-sectarian, Burial Park established west of the Cuyahoga River." Integral to the nineteenth-century ideal that cemeteries were public spaces, a garden-style cemetery (also known as a rural cemetery) was marked by its planned park-like landscape. Much like the East Side's prominent Lake View Cemetery, which opened in 1869, Riverside Cemetery once boasted of over 100 acres of lakes and well-tended paths, all of which helped to foster the sense of rest and ease that the citizenry wished for their community.
Until the formation of the Riverside Cemetery Association in 1875, Cleveland's West Side had no municipal cemetery of its own apart from the much smaller municipal Monroe St. Cemetery. The acreage that would become Riverside was purchased from a well-known farmer, Titus N. Brainard, who would later have a street (Titus Ave.) named for him in old Brooklyn Village. The Riverside Cemetery Association asked landscape architect and engineer, E.O. Schwaegerl, who would later be named Superintendent of Parks (1884), to help design the cemetery. Auspiciously, within the first year of operations, Riverside hosted a centennial memorial service to commemorate America's independence. The occasion was marked by the planting of elms in remembrance of community members, with one tree planted by Ohio Governor and future president, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Prominent community members buried there include the families of Titus N. Brainard and historian James Ford Rhodes, but by the turn of the twentieth century the cemetery's trustees had already established the cemetery as one that was to benefit the whole community, a legacy that continues today. Sections such as Babyland, where children from the community can be interred alongside their playmates, as well as clusters of different ethnic groups who made Cleveland's West Side their home, showcase the diversity that marks Riverside's accommodation of the larger needs of the community.
However, urban growth in the area has impacted Riverside. For around fifty years after its inception, Riverside Cemetery remained largely untouched by urban expansion. By the late 1960's, however, Interstate 71 and State Route 176, (better known as the Jennings Freeway), had cut off Riverside from its namesake, the Cuyahoga River, and the steady push westward by Cleveland's population- and encroachment of heavy industry had replaced the neighboring farms that once lent a more pastoral air to the sprawling cemetery. Despite this loss in acreage and change in setting, Riverside continues to provide the community with a peaceful place to lay their loved ones and neighbors to rest. Ongoing projects that restored the 1876 chapel to operational status after a nearly fifty-year hiatus, complete with pews from Trinity Episcopal Cathedral's renovations, serve to remind the community that Riverside Cemetery remains open to the tastes and needs of the communities that surround it.