Repairs Near Completion at Highland Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma
UPDATE, Jan. 18, 2023: Via a press release, the City of Lawton has confirmed that the repairs to the Highland Cemetery archway have been completed.
I drive down Fort Sill Boulevard at least twice a day, so when I see that the renovations at Highland Cemetery are nearing completion, it thrills me!
Highland Cemetery is one of Lawton's many historical sites, especially the archway of its main entrance. So when it was damaged in 2019, the whole community was affected. Residents could still access the cemetery using the south entrance, but this often proved cumbersome.
A lot of people who go to the cemetery to visit their loved ones often get confused on where their family's graves are located when they come in a different entry way. So even though the construction hasn't affected the cemetery itself, it has been a nuisance to all those who visit the cemetery, and a headache for our local city officials.
Here's why the construction on the main entrance has dragged out since 2019:
- Initially what caused the need for construction was because a city rash truck clipped the cemetery's historic archway as it was exiting the cemetery onto Fort Sill Boulevard. Damage was rendered to the top portion of the historic archway, which was a WPA project from 1939. There were visible cracks in the stonework, which proved to be a significant repair rather than a patch job.
- Since 2019, city officials have searched high and low to find the right people for the job. A stonemason was needed to evaluate the damage and proceed with repairs, but this proved to be a long and difficult search as many stonemasons are either retired or are no longer with us. So there was a time we weren't sure if the repairs were going to be made because the City of Lawton could not find someone qualified to complete them.
- Then in December 2022, the City of Lawton released the following press release announcing a contractor had been found and repairs would soon commence.
Oklahoma winds made the project difficult.
Workers with the contractor began taking off the top of the arch, stone by stone, and regrouting the two pillars on each side of the gate. Working atop the historic entryway proved to be difficult, especially with the Oklahoma wind. A tent was constructed to help workers.
Stones were reassembled like a giant puzzle.
Once they got down to the iron plate that topped the pillars, they began the painstaking job of reconstructing the archway. From my view across the street, it looked as if each piece was numbered and the workers put them back together like a puzzle.
The archway is now complete!
The scaffolding has been removed, the chain link fence that has surrounded the archway has been taken down, and the street light on the west side of Fort Sill Boulevard has been replaced and is operational. Late last week, I saw workers working on the wrought iron gates.
It may have taken longer than we anticipated, but hats off to the City of Lawton for getting this finished. And even with all of the delays, it's a job well done! We're glad they did take their time with this to preserve the archway's history.
Highland Cemetery Search Tool
In 2020, to help citizens locate their loved ones, the City of Lawton launched a search tool for Highland Cemetery. So if you are not sure exactly where your loved ones are buried at Highland Cemetery, you can check out this link. Currently, the City of Lawton has 91 percent of the cemetery cataloged. In the photo below you can see where I located my dad.
So when we get word from the City of Lawton that we can start using the main entrance of Highland Cemetery, I'll be able to drive through the historic archway to visit my parents. They would be so thrilled to see the archway still standing.