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Starkweather Chapel, Highland Cemetery
cemetery chapel
934 N. River Street
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198
Washtenaw County
Web Address:


Date Built: 1889

Architect: George Mason and Zachariah Rice

Architect’s City: Detroit

Number of Pictorial Windows: 3

Number of Non-pictorial Windows: 8

Floor Plan Sketch: Download

Building Notes: Highland Cemetary sits on over one hundred acres of land to the north of Ypsilanti, overlooking the Huron River. It offers a pictorial view of the city, and to the west, Eastern Michigan University. Its winding paths and drives follow the contours of a sand ridge thrown up on the banks of a pre-historic lake. The grounds are shaded by groves of oak, pine, cypress, willow, and cedar trees. Highland serves as a natural habitat for birds and small animals, including species concidered to be endangered.

The Highland Cemetary association was organized on July 7, 1863. On July 21, of that same year the Association contracted Colonel James Lewis Glenn of Niles, Michigan, to "lay out and map the cemetary grounds of the association at a price of two hundred dollars." Colonel Glenn had previously designed Ann Arbor's Forest Hill (1859) and Niles Silver Brook (1863) cemeteries. The landscaping and layout of the original forty acres was in the "garden" or "natural" style then popular. The dedication was held on July 14, 1864. The first burial had taken place the day before.

On May 3, 1889 the Board of Trustees voted to accept the gift of a Chapel from Mrs. Mary Ann Starkweather; dedicated to the memory of her husband John. The two had married in 1839 and had moved to a farm near Ypsilanti in 1841. Mr. Starkweather was a successful capitalist and speculater in real estate. Mr. and Mrs. Starkweather moved to a house on Huron St., in Ypsilanti, in 1875, where Mr. Starkweather died on February 2, 1883.

Mrs. Starkweather was a niece of John Newberry, the entrepreneur and philanthropist of Chicago. The Newberry Library being one of his gifts to that city. After his death in 1885, Mrs. Starkweather inherited a multimillion dollar estate. The Starkweathers had no children of their own, so Mrs. Starkweather used her legacy to give several gifts to the people of Ypsilanti, of which the Chapel is one. Mrs. Starkweather died in 1897.

The Starkweather Chapel stands at the entrance of Highland Cemetary. It was designed for use as a cemetary chapel, where services could be held before burial; especially in inclement weather. Although rarely used today, the Chapel is available for services at no cost.

The Chapel was built in 1888 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, from the plans of architects George Mason and Zachariah Rich of Detroit. The Chapel was constructed of red sandstone and cut fieldstone, in the shape of a Greek Cross, with a rectangular tower. The doorway and round arched windows are decorated with acanthas leaves. The total cost of construction was $2,000, not including the cost of the windows.

Inside the Chapel are original oak pews, clergy chairs, pulpit rail, wainscotting, crossbeams, entry doors, and a casket platform. The interior is lighted by blue and gold Tiffany windows. Two of these memorial windows.

One window is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. John D. Pierce, a Congregational minister, and the first Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Michigan. For two years John Starkweather served as his assistant. The Rev. Pierce was for a time a resident of Ypsilanti. The administration building for Eastern Michigan University is named in his honor, and stands two blocks from where his house once stood.

The second memorial window is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Ira M. Weed, and his wife Caroline. The Rev. Weed was the founder of the First Presbyterian Church in Ypsilanti. There is a second memorial window dedicated to his memory at the church, also by Tiffany, although he never preached in that building.

Over the years the physical condition of the Chapel has deteriorated badly. In 1988, a local group, the Friends of Highland Cemetery, was formed to oversee the restoration of the Chapel. Because of this group the Chapel recently received a new roof; but a great deal remains to be done. Needed repairs include replastering and repainting interior walls, cleaning and refinishing of the original wainscotting, pews and other furniture. The Chapel is also in need of electrical work, refinishing of the doors, and repair of the tower floor.

In 1991 the Friends of Highland Cemetery contracted Mr. Frank Enneking, AIA, to carry out an architectural survey of the Chapel; and propose plans for its restoration as a cemetery chapel, and use as a colunbariun and educational center. The plans included installation of a heating system, a unisex washroom, a fire alarm system, and energy conservation. The estimated cost is approximately $100,000. Fundraising is now under way.

John and Mary Ann Starweather are buried at Highland Cemetery. Their graves are on a small hilll overlooking the Chapel. On the grave site is a statue of John Starkweather's favorite dog, Watch. The head of the statue is set at an angle, so it appears as if the dog is keeping vigil on the Chapel.
Starkweather Chapel, Highland Cemetery
MSGC: 1994.0007

Census Coordinator:
Updated by Michael Surdyk 5/2023; James Mann

Studio Name
Tiffany Studios (attributed by the church to)
Tiffany Studios

Newberry Memorial Window
John D. Pierce Memorial
Tower Windows
Tower Window
Ornamental Aisle Windows, right side
Wead Memorial Window
Ornamental Facade Windows
Ornamental Aisle Windows, left side