Greenwood Cemetery was chartered as “The Greenwood Cemetery Company of Philadelphia” on October 26, 1869. The president of the cemetery company, Wilbur H. Myers, was a member of the Knights of Pythias and decided to amend the charter to change the name of the cemetery to “The Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery Company of Philadelphia.” This amended charter was recorded on March 18, 1870. The Knights of Pythias, as befitting a benevolent association, acquired graves within the cemetery for the use of its members.
The plans for the cemetery were very grand. The grounds were designed by architect Thomas S. Levy and modeled after the rural cemetery movement of the mid-19th Century. There were rolling hills with naturalist plantings, meandering pathways, elaborate gravestones and benches placed throughout the grounds. The plans also included areas set aside for family vaults and a man-made lake. The entrance was to feature an an imposing gatehouse (shown above). Sadly, it was never built and the plans for vaults and a lake were never realized. However, there are areas within the grounds that are evocative of the original design.
Greenwood’s fortunes steadily declined over generations. It became a target of vandals who toppled and shattered headstones. Maintenance lagged and much of the property became overgrown with only the front third cleared sufficiently to allow visitation. The Knights of Pythias, upset over conditions at Greenwood, tried unsuccessfully to have their name removed from the cemetery. However, they now share the renewed optimism that has come with the new owner and management team.