Secrets of Glenwood Cemetery

In Houston’s fervent embrace of the new and shiny, there’s not much in our city that dates from 1871. A notable exception is Glenwood Cemetery, which last year celebrated 150 years of providing a burial place for Houstonians. Located at 2525 Washington Avenue just west of Sawyer Street, Glenwood is an 88-acre oasis of quiet and restfulness. It’s also wondrously scenic – that view of downtown! – and it’s become one of our favorite places for walking our young German shepherd in the early morning. We recently chatted with Glenwood’s executive director Richard Ambrus who revealed a few colorful bits about Glenwood Cemetery’s past, present and future.

Cameron Ansari and Ryka find the quiet at Glenwood Cemetery is a perfect spot for dog training.
  • The Houston Cemetery Company was formed by an act of the Texas legislature in 1871. The first burial took place the following year when Eddie Masterson was buried.
  • When Glenwood was organized by English landscape designer Alfred Whitaker in 1871, cemeteries were designed with paths for promenading, benches, even pavilions. People cherished the park-like settings and often strolled the grounds, sometimes bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy in the cemetery.
  • Newspaper accounts in the late 1800s noted the growing popularity of Glenwood Cemetery as a tourist destination. Articles credited Glenwood as having thousands of visitors on All Saints and All Souls feast days (Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, respectively).
  • Today there are some 27,000 folks buried at Glenwood Cemetery and Washington Cemetery. The two side-by-side cemeteries merged in 1999.
  • Glenwood Cemetery is known as “the cemetery of angels” for its many angel statues. The best known is “the angel of grief” (below) carved by German immigrant Frank Teich to mark the Hill family plot. It was based on an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story that serves as the grave marker of the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
The Angel of Grief
  • In 2015 the 10-acre Skyline Meadow section was developed on the east side of the cemetery overlooking a man-made lake that is fed by Buffalo Bayou. The lake is both a water feature and the primary water source for irrigating the cemetery.
  • Ground was broken in 2021 for the new Center for Glenwood at the Washington Avenue entrance. It will include archives, office space, an auditorium and outreach program. It should be finished in 2023.
  • Among the familiar Houston family names carved into stone at Glenwood are Blaffer, Botts, Farish, Hobby, Cullinan, Rice, Sterling, Brown, Wortham, Kinkaid, Hermann, Baker and Weiss. It’s the final resting place for Anson Jones (last president of the Republic of Texas), industrialist Howard Hughes, heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley, wildcatter Glenn McCarthy, Astrodome builder Roy Hofheinz, actress Gene Tierney Lee and Texans team founder Bob McNair
  • The price of a 3-foot-by-10-foot burial plot – large enough for a single casket or three cremation urns – starts at $8,500 and can run as high as $50,000. As in residential real estate, cost depends on location, location, location. And, notes Ambrus, Glenwood expects to take a price increase this year. BTW: The largest plot in Glenwood Cemetery is, currently, 5,300 square feet. You can do the math.
  • Upmarket landscape firm McDugald Steele has designed 50-some Glenwood burial plots for their well-heeled clients. Layouts include walkways, walls, fences, gates, benches, plantings and installation of statuary and markers.
  • About 30 percent of the cost of a Glenwood burial plot goes into a trust fund for maintenance.
  • Worried that you’ve missed out on snagging a spot at Glenwood? Ambrus says not to worry: There’s about 60 years of internments still available.
  • If you want to learn more about Glenwood Cemetery, Preservation Houston offers public docent-guided walking tours four times a year. Click here for their 2022 schedule.