Though it might look like an ordinary cemetery at first glance, when you walk through the grounds of United Memorial Gardens in Plymouth, Michigan, you’ll notice quirky landmarks like a birdhouse mausoleum and a life-sized replica of the Biblical tabernacle.
The cemetery was first opened in 1929, but Ed Wensley’s management in the 1950s gave the grounds a special character. Wensley offered hayrides through the grounds and let people rent paddle boats for the artificial lake in the back. He also populated the burial ground with unique structures and monuments.
The tabernacle was built in 1985, and according to Wensley, was the first to-scale replica in the world. The tabernacle was a movable dwelling-place/sanctuary used by the Israelites in the Book of Exodus. Look inside the windows of the United Memorial Gardens tabernacle, and you’ll see replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, the golden lampstand, and more.
Other monuments include “the Wonders of Michigan,” a series of marble pedestals boasting of Michigan tourist attractions arranged in the shape of the Lower Peninsula; the Facts of Life,” where Wensley rhythmically cautions against un-Christian behavior like drug use, premarital intercourse, and non-heterosexual relationships; a statue memorializing Cecelia, the only survivor of a Detroit airplane crash; and a birdhouse mausoleum for our avian pets.
Declining health forced Wensley to sell the graveyard in 1996. While new management put an end to the hayrides and paddle-boats, the unique structures and monuments remain, and United Memorial Gardens still invites visitors to admire the grounds.