As part of the Victorian rural cemetery movement, Elmwood Cemetery was established in 1868 by a special act of the New Jersey Legislature and called Cedar Lawn Cemetery. The name was changed to Elmwood Cemetery Association in 1873. This cemetery was designed as a Victorian garden cemetery by the prominent, New Brunswick architect, George Parsell. He and Elmwood’s founders had a vision to create a beautiful home of final rest for the deceased and a tranquil place of reflection for families. Conceived as a non-sectarian cemetery, Elmwood was not associated with a particular congregation or religion; it was specifically built to welcome all people.
The original layout for the cemetery included a gatehouse, a receiving vault, a lake, a large public park and numerous winding pathways which were lined with flowering trees and evergreens. A few years later, Elmwood Cemetery erected imposing stone and wrought iron gates at both entrances. The natural rolling hills and sylvan landscape dotted with memorials on the outskirts of New Brunswick must have been a very tranquil scene in the late nineteenth century.