More than one hundred guests enjoyed an evening of art and nature at the second Summer Soulstice Celebration, hosted by the historic Forest Home Cemetery and Arboretum on the evening of June 20.

Attendees enjoyed a memorable journey through Milwaukee’s most prominent cemetery by horse-drawn carriages, and explored the old-world charm of the almost 200 acres that reflected the Victorian era. The informal tours highlighted the cemetery’s rich immigrant heritage and diverse collection of trees, which offered an immersive look at a site that has been a continuous part of Milwaukee since 1850.

The Summer Soulstice event also featured a blend of activities in support of efforts by the Forest Home Historic Preservation Association to maintain and enhance the city’s cherished landmark.

Both the cemetery and its Landmark Chapel – built in 1891 in the Gothic Revival style from Lake Superior Sandstone, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and were declared a Milwaukee Landmark in 1973.

Located in the Lincoln Village neighborhood, Forest Home Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the city’s most influential figures. It is the burial site for two of Milwaukee’s three founding fathers, 28 Milwaukee Mayors, seven Wisconsin Governors, Social Elites, Beer Barons, Railroad Magnates, Captains of Industry, and more than 110,000 individuals, including a mass grave for the victims of the 1883 Newhall House fire.

The grounds are home to several significant monuments and structures, such as the Blatz Family Mausoleum – an example of neoclassical architecture, and the Pabst family monument, which reflects the grandeur of Milwaukee’s brewing history.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church began work to create the cemetery in 1847. The original 72 acres purchased in 1850 quickly expanded to 198.5 acres by the early 20th century. Established 174 years ago, it served as Milwaukee’s first public park. The Victorian landscape is populated by more than 100 tree species, ornate statues, crypts, and monuments. It includes two large mausoleums with historical exhibits.

Located nearly two miles outside of what was then the city limits, along the newly built Janesville Plank Road – now Forest Home Avenue, Forest Home Cemetery was once dotted by Paleo Indian burial mounds and intersected a large collection of effigy mounds known to settlers as the Indian Fields. It contained over sixty earthworks, which were cataloged by pioneer scientist Increase A. Lapham. An Indian village had originally populated the corner near what is now Lincoln Avenue.

The Summer Soulstice event celebrated the seasonal transition with stories of notable individuals from Milwaukee’s past, bringing to life the influences and legacies of their work in the community that shaped the city. Festivities included a dinner in the Victorian Garden with musical accompaniment by the jazz cocktail quartet, The Mr. Lucky Syndicate.

A silent and live auction was also held, with all proceeds going directly to preservation projects. As Forest Home Cemetery’s infrastructure ages, raising funds through public support and charitable donations has been crucial for preserving its cultural and historical heritage. The ongoing efforts aim to safeguard the site for generations to come.