10 Cemeteries You Must See Before You Drop Dead
There are a few websites on the internet that promote some form of a “Top 10 Cemetery List.” I’ve decided to publish my spin on this sort of list. With that being said I’d like to present to you The Gravecast Blog’s “Top 10 Cemeteries You Must See Before You Drop Dead.”
Included with each cemetery listing in The Gravecast Blog’s Top 10 List. Is a brief overview of the cemeteries featured. Also included (when possible) are links to that cemeteries official website, Wikipedia links, and Find A Grave links, to where you can checkout a detailed listing of notable/famous personalities who rest peacefully in these tranquil galleries in granite. Keep in mind even though there are 10 cemeteries on the list, I’ve personally only been to about 1/3 of the cemeteries mentioned.
The criteria I came up with for the cemeteries to be included on the list. Relate to the fact that they were historic in some way, and were overflowing with an assortment of granite architectural delights. One of the things I didn’t take into consideration is the number of famous/notable personalities who rest in these historic cemeteries. That aspect pretty much fell into place on its own. Also even though the cemeteries are listed from 1-10. They aren’t really listed by importance. I just randomly put them like that as I thought of them. Before I forget if you hover your mouse cursor over each cemetery name and click on it. You will be taken to the official website for that cemetery. So without further adieu let’s get started.
1. Père Lachaise Cemetery - Paris
Located in the delightfully tranquil tree-lined 20th arrondissement district of Paris. Cimetière du Père-Lachaise which was established in 1804 set the stage for the “Rural Cemetery Movement” around the world. It’s reputedly known that Père-Lachaise is one of the world’s most visited cemeteries. Boasting the fact that hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe flock to this delightfully tranquil oasis on an annual basis.
A few of the famous/notable people who rest in Père-Lachaise include The Doors front-man Jim Morrison, & Judah Benjamin who was a United States, and Confederate States politician, around the time of the American Civil War. If you’re interested in learning more about the people buried in Père-Lachaise, the cemetery that leads by example when it comes to architecture, and pleasant scenic views. Please visit the Père-Lachaise Wikipedia, or Find A Grave pages.
2. Highgate Cemetery – London
If you ever find yourself visiting London. You definitely should make a point to visit Highgate Cemetery. Situated in the densely forested London boroughs of Camden, Hariengey, and Islington. Founded in 1839, Highgate Cemetery was originally designed by architect Stephen Geary. As the population in London was doubling. The need for more burial space for residents was decided. Thus the area(s) designated the “Magnificent Seven” which are a cluster of cemeteries that surround the area bordering London was set in stone. The cemetery is divided into two parts (The East Cemetery, & West Cemetery). As time went on Londoners soon discovered the Magnificent Seven cluster of cemeteries was a fashionable place for burial.
If you visit London’s Highgate cemetery, you will no doubt stroll past the graves of some of London’s biggest movers and shakers. Several of the people who rest peacefully at Highgate include: actor Sir Ralph Richardson, comedian Max Wall, & screenwriter Carl Mayer who wrote the screenplay for the silent era horror film classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and many other politicians, poets, and actors. To find out more about this Victorian style cemetery. You definitely should visit Wikipedia, or the Find A Grave pages for Highgate Cemetery, East & West.
3. Hollywood Forever Cemetery - Los Angeles/Hollywood
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a Hollywood landmark in its self. Tucked along the north facing wall of the famous Paramount Studios. The cemetery is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. Originally known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery. Hollywood Forever was founded in 1899, by developers Isaac Lankershim, & Isaac Van Nuys.
Hollywood Forever boasts its self as being the final resting place to many of Tinseltown’s most beloved actors, producers, and pretty much anyone who had anything to do with filmdom, not to mention early Los Angeles settlers. The cemetery has a storied yet interesting past, this is due in part to the ill-conceived handling of the endowment care fund, by the previous owners. Fast forward to 1998 the cemetery was on the verge of closure. That is until Missouri cemetarian Tyler Cassity strolled along and saved this historic Hollywood burial ground from being shutdown. After Cassity purchased the property, he invested millions towards the revitalization of the tranquil cemetery grounds. Which included the planting of trees, repaving the roads which intersect inside the cemetery, and cleaning up the mausoleums. This beautiful, and historic cemetery, has no doubt come a long way, and once again has had a fresh prosperous rebirth. The combination of all these things, is what makes Hollywood Forever a truly special place.
Many of the people who call this historic cemetery their final home include but is not limited to: silent era actress Agnes Ayers, virtuoso comedian/actor Mel Blanc, actor Tyrone Power, actor Paul Muni, mobsters Bugsy Siegel, and Moe Sedway, among many other well-known celebrities. The most famous of all celebrities, and Hollywood studio big shots who call Hollywood Forever their final home is the silent era heartthrob with the ravishing handsome looks, Rudolf Valentino. If you’re interested in learning more about the people who are buried, or interred in this truly amazing cemetery. You definitely should visit the Hollywood Forever Wikipedia, & Find A Grave pages.
4. Mt. Auburn Cemetery – Cambridge, Mass
Next up on The Gravecast Blog’s list of “10 Cemeteries You Must See Before You Drop Dead” is Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Located a stones throwaway from Boston, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mt. Auburn, prides its self as being “America’s first garden cemetery.” This notion was inspired by Père-Lachaise, and paved the way for other cemeteries around the country to reproduce the design, and overall look, and feel of what a garden, or rural cemetery should resemble. Founded in 1831, Mt. Auburn was designed by Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn.
Some of the notable inhabitants who rest peacefully within the tranquil solitude of this beautiful garden cemetery include: former slave Harriet Jacobs, Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray, Boston philanthropist Peter Bent Brigham, among many other regionally known notable people. If you’re interested in learning more about Mt. Auburn cemetery, feel free to visit Wikipedia, or Find A Grave.
5. Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn
If you’ve been a visitor to New York City, and you’re a taphophile. You’re more than likely aware that Green-Wood Cemetery in the Greenwood Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, is among the regions true hidden gems. Founded in 1838, by Henry Evelyn Pierrepoint the plans for Green-Wood came from an inspiration based on the design, and layout of Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge. On the positive side Green-Wood was able to take full advantage of the natural occurrence because of the prime condition the topography offered the nearby glacial moraines. This fact alone made the area a perfectly beautiful setting for a cemetery. The centerpiece of this magnificent cemetery are the uniquely distinctive entrance gates. The gates were designed in the style of Gothic Revival by Richard Upjohn. Constructed in 1861 using Belleville brownstone. The masterfully sculptured artistry above the historic gates depict biblical scenes. The biblical sculptures are the handcrafted work of designer John M. Moffitt. In 2006, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery was awarded the distinction of being classified a National Historic Landmark.
Among the residents who call Green-Wood their final home are politicians, artisans, gangsters, business magnates, actors, among other illustrious personalities. As you stroll along, and admire the surreal tranquility of this beautiful cemetery. You will no doubt stroll past the graves of silent era actor William S. Hart, mafioso and Murder Inc. hitman Albert Anastasia, along with abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. Even with the names I just mentioned, you’re bound to get a potpourri sampling of personalities, from various walks of New York life both good, & bad. If you’re interested in experiencing what this cemetery has to offer, and wont be in New York City, anytime soon. Feel free to cruise over to the Green-Wood Cemetery, Wikipedia or Find A Grave page. If you do live in the region, you most definitely should make a point to experience this magical place for yourself.
6. St. Louis Cemetery #1 – New Orléans
A top 10 cemetery list would not be complete without mentioning St. Louis Cemetery #1, or its sister cemeteries St. Louis Cemetery #2, and #3. For the sake of this article were just going to cover St. Louis Cemetery #1. Founded in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery #1 is one of the nations oldest, and most famous cemeteries. This particular cemetery was set in stone as a replacement for St. Peter Cemetery which no longer exists. St. Louis #1 was catapulted as the primary New Orléans burial ground, after the city below the sea, burned to the ground in 1788. One of the highly fascinating things that make this cemetery truly unique. Is that nearly all the burial vaults in the cemetery are above ground. This is due in part because the city of New Orléans sits below sea level. If you don’t believe me visit Google and checkout images from this intriguingly beautiful place.
While there are literally thousands of above ground crypts in this truly majestic burial ground. There are only about a dozen or so notable personalities who call the cemetery their final home. A few of those notable personalities include: Plantation owner, & New Orléans first mayor Jean Etienne De Bore. You will also find the final resting place of Confederate General John Breckinridge Grayson, & Benjamin Henry Latrobe who was the nations first architect and engineer. Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is rumored to be interred within the confines of this cemetery as well. If you’re interested in learning more about this truly majestic cemetery, feel free to visit Find A Grave. There’s also a New Orléans cemetery preservationist group that offers tours. If you’re interested in taking a leisurely tour or learning more about the other cemeteries in the New Orléans region. You should visit Save Our Cemeteries.
7. Graceland Cemetery – Chicago
Nestled in the Northside Chicago community of Uptown. You will find Graceland Cemetery. Graceland is a large Victorian style cemetery which was founded in 1860 by Thomas Bryan a prominent Chicago lawyer. After The Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Lincoln Park (another Chicago cemetery) was deconsecrated, and many of the bodies that were entombed in that cemetery, were then reinterred in Graceland. Graceland, is a prime example of a graveyard that reflects the concept set forth by Queen Victoria’s vision of what an early 19th century burial ground should resemble. Instead of old decrepit headstones, and parcels of land unsuitable for the purpose of a burial ground. Queen Victoria noted that the scenery she envisioned for these cemeteries should reflect something with pastoral landscaping. The landscape would include an overabundance of tree, and shrub varietals, and large beautiful memorials, reflecting the personalities buried in the cemetery. It would be a place where lovers new, and old would come to have a picnic near the scenic pond, or take a leisurely stroll among the towering monuments. This in fact was a common thing to do during the 1800′s.
Some of the personalities who rest peacefully in Graceland Cemetery include: John Kinzie who was the first white settler to Chicago. Members of the McCormick family who were prominent and influential residents of Chicago. Famed private detective Allan Pinkerton, among many other Chicagoland notables. If you’re interested in learning more about Graceland Cemetery, you definitely should visit Wikipedia, or Find A Grave.
8. Bellefontaine Cemetery – St. Louis
Bellefontaine Cemetery, which was named after Fort Bellefontaine (first U.S. military installation in the Louisiana Territory). Was founded in 1849 by William McPherson a prominent banker, and lawyer, who at one time was mayor of St. Louis, along with a contingent of prominent gentlemen from St. Louis. The founding of the cemetery was set in stone, after the abandonment of the older cemeteries, in the area due to the cities sprawling westward growth. The group led by McPherson purchased a portion of the nearby Hempstead Farm to be used for the incarnation of the cemetery. Almerin Hotchkiss, the landscape architect of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, was brought in to design and maintain the scenic landscape of the cemetery. Some of the architectural wonders of Bellefontaine, include a multitude of elaborately designed private mausoleums, and obelisks with intricately designed bases.
If you’re planing to visit this magnificent granite city. Some of the key highlights, you should definitely checkout, of prominent St. Louisan’s who call this majestic place their final home include: Members of the Lemp Family, who were prominent St. Louis brewery owners. Adolphus Busch & Family, who were the founders of The Anheuser Busch Company. Along with James Smith McDonnell, who founded McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. You can’t forget Irma S. Rombauer, who authored the cookbook The Joy of Cooking. With the collection of politicians, war hero’s, and industry titans, who call Bellefontaine their final home. It’s no wonder that if you visit St. Louis anytime in the foreseeable future, you should definitely put this historic landmark on the list of places to stroll around. If you’d like to learn more about this true museum in stone, and the St. Louis personalities who rest here. Feel free to cruise over to Wikipedia, or Find A Grave.
9. Hollywood Cemetery – Richmond
Along the banks of the James River, in the Virginia capital of Richmond. Sits one of the south’s most well-known burial grounds. Founded in 1849, Hollywood Cemetery was placed in an area of Richmond that was once owned by Colonel William Byrd II. Who was a prominent planter, and slave owner in the region. Byrd is considered by historians as the founder of Richmond, Virginia. The land in which the cemetery sits on used to be known as “Harvie’s Woods” the cemetery its self was designed in the popular rural garden style. The name “Hollywood” originates from the regionally popular Holly Tree. This specimen of tree can be seen along the hillside in the cemetery. As you stroll along the peaceful landscape of this true southern shrine. Pay attention to the various architectural styles in the monuments, and mausoleums. The architectural styles include Exotic Revival, Classical Revival, among others.
Among the inhabitants who are at peaceful rest in this true god’s acre. Include but is not limited to: United States Presidents James Monroe, and John Tyler. Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Twenty-Five Confederate Generals (the largest representation of Confederate Generals in the south) which include: George Pickett and J.E.B. Stuart, among others. Well known authors, James Branch Cabell, & Douglas Southall Freeman, are also resting within the tranquil landscape of Hollywood Cemetery. If you’re going to be visiting Richmond, anytime soon. Hollywood Cemetery should definitely be on the bucket list of historic places to visit. To help you along the way, and to get a general who’s who overview of the inhabitants who rest in this beautiful graveyard. Feel free to visit Wikipedia, or Find A Grave.
10. Elmwood Cemetery – Detroit
The last cemetery on the list is one of my personal favorites, and that being Elmwood Cemetery, in Detroit. Located in an area known as Detroit’s Eastside Historic Cemetery District. Elmwood Cemetery was founded in 1841, and is the oldest continuously operating, non-denominational cemetery in Michigan. The cemetery resembles a rural or garden cemetery, which is popular among many cemeteries in the United States. Among the architectural styles represented on the buildings, monuments, and mausoleums on this 86 acre property include, Gothic Revival, and an assortment of others. In 1890 this historic park like burial ground, with the gently flowing stream, and the hilly landscape, was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. One of the interesting things I find fascinating about Elmwood. Is the fact that in July of 1763, during Pontiac’s Rebellion. The Battle of Bloody Run took place along the stream bank in the cemetery. In 1982 Elmwood Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Among the early Michigan Governors, captains of industry, military hero’s, and other notable personalities who are at rest in this beautiful cemetery include: Bernard Stroh, founder of the Stroh Brewery. You will also find the graveside of punk rocker Fred “Sonic” Smith, who was the guitarist for the influential Detroit based punk rock group MC5. Emma S. Berry, the Confederate States Assistant Secretary of The Treasury, and an Aide to Confederate President Jefferson Davis is also at rest here. Not to mention Eber Brock Ward, who was Detroit’s first millionaire. Ward has a beautiful monument down the way from Michigan Governors William Woodbridge, and Lewis Cass. Also resting in Elmwood is Windsor, Ontario distillery owner Hiram Walker, he was the gentleman who created Canadian Club whiskey. If you’re interested in learning more about Elmwood Cemetery, which is considered by many as Detroit’s Hidden Gem. Feel free to cruise over to Wikipedia, or Find A Grave. Lastly if you’re a self-respecting taphophile like me, you might be interested in reading Elmwood Endures: History of a Detroit Cemetery by Michael S. Franck.