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Crown Hill
September 2022
Crown Hill
Crown Hill logo in 1875
September 25th marks the 159th anniversary of the incorporation of Crown Hill Cemetery, making it the perfect time to continue the Crown Series by highlighting the natural story of the Crown and the founding and development of the cemetery. We’ll also introduce a new employee, Stephanie Ertel, Director of Education and Engagement, and our IUPUI Intern Colleen Williamson.

The Crown Series

Looking Toward Indianapolis from Williams Hill (the Crown), circa 1861
Crown Hill Cemetery was founded in 1863 as part of the American Rural Cemetery movement that provided the inspiration for the nation’s first public parks.

Crown Hill’s natural story began around 20,000 years earlier, when a melting glacier created a “kame,” a steep-sided mound of sand and gravel (hill) that became known as “The Crown.” It rises to 842 feet above sea level and 60 feet above its fairly flat surroundings. In the early 1860s, Martin Williams owned the land which included this hill, a farm, a tree nursery and his cabin near the base of the hill.

Indianapolis residents, who lived several miles away, would sometimes ride out to the hill for the view and perhaps to picnic and eat wild strawberries that grew there, giving it the name of “Strawberry Hill” in some accounts. The Crown has also been known as “Dorsey’s Knob,” “Mount McCormack” and “Williams Hill,” after its various owners.

In the summer of 1863, James Ray, an Indianapolis pioneer and civic leader, began pursuing the idea of establishing a Rural Cemetery, the landscaped, park-like cemeteries that became popular in the United States and Europe in the mid-19th century. They were typically built several miles out into the countryside and featured statues and memorials depicting angels and botanical motifs. Ray wanted the new cemetery to take the place of the original City Cemetery, later known as Greenlawn, which was surrounded by railroads and industry and located just outside the southwest corner of Indianapolis’ mile square.
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Introducing Stephanie Ertel
Director of Education and Engagement
Stephanie Ertel, Director of Education and Engagement
We welcome Stephanie Ertel into the role of Director of Education and Engagement, a new position with the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation. In this role, Stephanie will oversee all of the Foundation’s educational and community programming efforts, which will include K-12 educational curriculum, state standards, and field trips; community tours and events; and publicity across all social media platforms. She will be integral in the Foundation’s efforts to grow and enhance educational opportunities and community programming to showcase the cultural, historical and natural heritage that is Crown Hill Cemetery.
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Introducing Colleen Williamson 
IUPUI Public History Intern
Colleen Williamson, IUPUI Intern
We also welcome Colleen Williamson, a college intern who began the school year with the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation. She’s a student at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) in their Public History program through the Department of History. Colleen holds a B.A. in History from Bryn Mawr College and is currently working towards her Master of Arts in History and Master of Library and Information Science at IUPUI. She began her career in libraries and archives, with a fellowship at the Library of Congress before moving to Egypt to work at the American University in Cairo University Archives. Before coming to Crown Hill, she worked as a librarian with the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.
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Thanks to our corporate partners!
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