In the mid-1850s Peoria was fast becoming a thriving Midwestern city. As the population doubled to nearly 12,000 people, the community faced the problems of providing the infrastructure to support this growing population and the space to bury those who died here. At a public meeting in the Peoria Court House on August 4, 1854, a movement was launched to create “a more adequate cemetery” for the fast growing city of Peoria. The most attractive site in all of Peoria lay in the valley beyond Birkett’s Hollow and on the beautiful wooded hills above. Much of this land (a 160-acre site) was owned by William A. Hall, Thomas Baldwin and Hervey Lightner.
The earliest description of the property was published August 11, 1854, in the Peoria Weekly Republican. It reads in part: "All the requisites of a large and beautiful cemetery seem combined in this ground... The hills slope at so easy an angle that no difficulty is apprehended in making carriage ways through the whole ground. The little streams through which springs discharge their waters may be arrested in their progress and formed into small lakes or pools... Lying between the Mount Hawley road and the table land of the city, and covered with an almost unbroken forest, it is wholly secluded from the noise and dust of travel and business..."
The large size of Springdale required the owners to procure a charter from the Illinois State Legislature in order to become operational as a cemetery and hold funds for burial in trust. To help get the charter they hired Peoria lawyer Alexander McCoy. On February 14, 1855, he succeeded in getting the charter passed and Springdale Cemetery was officially in business. Interments began in the Spring of 1857 with the burial of Ben Frank Powell, child of local Judge Elihu Powell. Many of the other first burials were, in fact, reburials where families moved the remains of loved ones from family plots or other small, local cemeteries. Little did they know then that Springdale would grow to be one of the largest cemeteries in the state of Illinois.
Today Springdale is the final resting place for over 70,000 former Peoria area residents of many nationalities—African, English, French, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian, Scandinavian, Spanish, Vietnamese and more. Springdale is also the resting place for many of Peoria's legendary people including the following:
- Illinois Senator Prescott E. Bloom.
- Lydia Moss Bradley, who established Bradley University and donated land for Bradley Park.
- Octave Chanute, who helped the Wright brothers design their aircraft.
- Henry Detweiller, a Peoria steamboat pilot and captain on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. During his last years Captain Detweiller frequently had Abraham Lincoln as a passenger, and came to know him well. Detweiller's father donated the land for Detweiller Park.
- Edward Easton, a successful grain dealer, distiller and president of the Peoria Board of Trade in 1877. His 11,000 square foot home at the corner of Main and High Street still stands and is shown to the public by appointment.
- Thomas Ford, who was Governor of the State of Illinois from 1842 to 1846 and author of the book A History of Illinois 1818-1847.
- Dr. Romeo B. Garrett, Bradley University's first African American professor and author of the book The Negro in Peoria.
- John H. Gwynn, who was president of the Peoria NAACP and a local, state and national civil rights leader.
- John Hall, a Civil War veteran who marched with Sherman to the sea.
- Lucie Brotherson Tyng, an active member of the national Women's Christian Temperance Union.
- Moses Pettingill, an ardent abolotionist, who was operator of a station on the Underground Railroad.
Completed in 1929, the mausoleum was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Lovell & Lovell. It is one of forty-nine designed by the firm. The principals were Sidney Lovell (1867 - 1938) and his son, Marion McDonald Lovell (1895 - 1960). An article that describes the mausoleum appeared in the April 1931 issue of The American Cemetery. Another article on the firm had appeared in the March 1931 issue of the same magazine. Its style could be characterized as a restrained version of the Gothic Revival.
Springdale's mausoleum was constructed by the Valley Mausoleum Company. It is of poured, re-inforced concrete. The exterior is clad in gray Barre granite, and the interior is finished in white Alabama marble. Bronze doors, grilles, and window frames were produced for the project by the J. S. Heath Company of Waukegan, Illinois. The contract for the stained glass windows was awarded to the Temple Art Glass Company of Chicago. Lovell & Lovell also designed other mausoleums in Illinois: Chicago, Pekin, Bloomington, Astoria, and Jacksonville among other cities. The Springdale project was reportedly the firm's seventh.