Founded in 1848, the facility covers over and contains nearly 150,000 interments.
The crypts span the breadth of late-Victorian and turn-of-the-century architectural movements, including some styled in the Mesopotamian–Egyptian style favored during the burst of "Egyptian mania" enjoyed after Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. Some of the largest family crypts that can be seen are those of the Hayden, Battelle, and Packard families. Also entombed here with their own private burial plots surrounding the central crypt is the Lazarus family, the patriarchal line that founded and ran the popular department store chains known as The F&R Lazarus & Company, The John Shillito Company, and Federated Department Stores.
There are specialized burial areas similar to those found in many other large cemeteries. Specifically, there is "Lullabye Land" where stillborns and infant deaths are laid to rest. Also here are six distinct areas for war veterans, each one a section dedicated to a specific American war and including the oldest section towards the western rear of the cemetery for Civil War veterans of Ohio infantry battalions. A famous monument is erected towards the westernmost boundary for the "Soldiers and Sailors" memorial movement.
The center building of the cemetery is the Mausoleum and Chapel. This building was originally erected in 1902, and then was subsequently added to with an additional wing and carillon bells in the 1960s. Here can be found intricate precious-stone mosaics on the walls and stained-glass windows commissioned by the Board of Trustees from the famous Tiffany glassworks studio.
Changes to Columbus growth patterns, and demographics have reshaped the cemetery. Once located in the rural outskirts of Columbus, the cemetery is now surrounded by residential neighborhoods, industrial facilities and Cooper Stadium (the home of the AAA Columbus Clippers baseball team). This has shifted the main entrance of Green Lawn away from the western, Brown Road (State Route 62) Gate to the eastern gate on Greenlawn Avenue.
Green Lawn was intended by the Board of Trustees overseeing it to be not just a cemetery but also a significant city park and public gathering area, as was the intent of all cemeteries of the "Rural Cemetery" movement of the 1840s and 1850s. To this effect, the cemetery is a large sprawling complex, incorporating over of roads, paths, and lanes. It has arbors and a butterfly preserve, and at its central pond (also known as "The Pit Pond") is a recognized Audubon Society viewing site.