Laurel Hill Cemetery
Laurel Hill Cemetery Gatehouse
|Location||3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Architectural style||Exotic Revival, Gothic, Classical Revival|
|NRHP reference No.||77001185|
|Added to NRHP||October 28, 1977|
|Designated PHMC||May 20, 2000|
Laurel Hill Cemetery is a historic garden or rural cemetery in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia. Founded in 1836, it was the second major rural cemetery in the United States after Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts.
The cemetery is 74-acre (300,000 m2) in size and overlooks the Schuylkill River. It contains over 11,000 family lots and more than 33,000 graves including thousands of 19th- and 20th-century marble and granite funerary monuments such as obelisks, elaborately sculpted hillside tombs and mausoleums.
The cemetery was founded in 1836 by John Jay Smith, a librarian and editor with interests in horticulture and real estate who was distressed at the way his deceased daughter was interred at the Arch Street Meeting House burial ground in Philadelphia. Smith wrote, "Philadelphia should have a rural cemetery on dry ground, where feelings should not be harrowed by viewing the bodies of beloved relatives plunged into mud and water."
Smith joined forces with other prominent Philadelphia citizens including Benjamin Wood Richards, William Strickland and Nathan Dunn to form the Laurel Hill Cemetery Company and create a rural cemetery three miles above Philadelphia's northern border on the east bank of the Schuylkill River. The group considered several locations but decided on the former estate of businessman Joseph Sims known as "Laurel" or "Laurel Hill". The location was viewed as a haven from urban expansion and a respite from the increasingly industrialized city center. The city later grew past Laurel Hill, but the cemetery retained its rural character.
Designs for the cemetery were submitted by William Strickland and Thomas Ustick Walter but the commission selected Scottish-American architect John Notman. Notman's designs incorporated the topography of the location and included a string of terraces that descended to the river. The cemetery was developed and completed between 1836 and 1839. Notman designed the gatehouse which consists of a massive Roman arch surrounded by an imposing classical colonnade and topped with a large ornamental urn. A large Gothic Revival style chapel was built on the grounds but removed in the 1880s to make room for additional graves.
The cemetery purchased a group of statues from Scottish sculptor James Thom, known as Old Mortality. The statues were placed in a small enclosure in the central courtyard directly in front of the main gatehouse. The statues are based on a tale by Sir Walter Scott and depict Scott talking to Old Mortality, an elderly man who traveled through the Scottish Highlands re-carving weathered tombstones, along with his pony and a bust of James Thom.
To increase its cachet, the cemetery's organizers had the remains of several famous Revolutionary War figures moved there, including Continental Congress secretary Charles Thomson; Declaration of Independence signer Thomas McKean; Philadelphia war veteran and shipbuilder Jehu Eyre; Hugh Mercer, hero of the Battle of Princeton; and David Rittenhouse, first director of the U.S. Mint.
Classical Revival, Gothic Revival, Egyptian Revival and other exotic styles are rendered in a wide palette of materials, including marble, granite, cast-iron and sandstone. Notable artists and architects, including Notman, Alexander Milne Calder and William Strickland contributed their designs.
From its inception, Laurel Hill was intended as a civic institution designed for public use. In an era before public parks, museums and arboretums, it was a multi-purpose cultural attraction where the general public could experience the art and refinement previously known only to the wealthy. By the 1840s, Laurel Hill was an immensely popular destination and required tickets for admission. Writer Andrew Jackson Downing reported "nearly 30,000 persons…entered the gates between April and December, 1848."
In 1844, due to increasing popularity, Laurel Hill purchased an estate half a mile south and named it South Laurel Hill. In 1863, the property between the two cemeteries was purchased and named Central Laurel Hill. With these two additions, the cemetery reached the current size of approximately 95 acres. A bridge was built over Hunting Park Avenue to connect Central and South Laurel Hill.
In 1860, Laurel Hill Cemetery had an estimated 140,000 people visit annually.
The cemetery was restrictive as to who could buy lots and the majority of burials were for white Protestants. The cemetery discouraged unmarried people from buying lots so that the cemetery would be a family destination.
During and after the American Civil War, Laurel Hill became the final resting place of hundreds of military figures, including 40 Civil War-era generals. Laurel Hill also became the favored burial place for many of Philadelphia's most prominent political and business figures, including Matthias W. Baldwin, founder of the Baldwin Locomotive Works; Henry Disston, owner of the largest saw factory in the world (the Disston Saw Works); and financier Peter A. B. Widener.
By the 1970s, Laurel Hill Cemetery had fallen out of favor as a burial site. Many bodies were re-interred at the more suburban West Laurel Hill Cemetery in nearby Lower Merion, Pennsylvania and the existing graves suffered neglect, vandalism and crime.
In 1978, the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded by descendents of John Jay Smith to support the cemetery. The mission of the Friends is to assist the Laurel Hill Cemetery Company in preserving and promoting the historical character of Laurel Hill. The Friends raise funds and seek contributed services; prepare educational and research materials emphasizing the historical, architectural and cultural importance of Laurel Hill Cemetery; and provide tour guides to educate the public. The organization was instrumental in Laurel Hill Cemetery's placement on the National Register of Historic Places and designation as a National Historic Landmark.
In the 21st century, two pairs of seats from Veterans Stadium were installed at the grave of Harry Kalas, the Frick Award-winning announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies, so they could be used by fans paying their respects.
Laurel Hill Cemetery remains a popular tourist destination with thousands of visitors annually for historical tours, concerts and physical recreation.
- Robert Adams, Jr. (1849–1906), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- Hilary Baker (1746–1798), mayor of Philadelphia
- Matthias W. Baldwin (1795–1866), businessman, Baldwin Locomotive Works
- Alexander Biddle (1819–1899), U.S. army officer
- Henry H. Bingham (1841-1912), Union Army officer in the American Civil War, recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of the Wilderness
- Robert Montgomery Bird (1803–1854), American novelist, playwright, and physician
- David Bispham (1857–1921), opera singer
- George A.H. Blake (1810-1884), calvary officer in the U.S. Army
- Charles E. Bohlen (1904–1974), U.S. diplomat
- Henry Bohlen (1810–1862), Civil War Union Brigadier General
- George Henry Boker (1823–1890), poet, playwright, and diplomat
- Joseph Bonnell (1802–1840), West Point graduate, hero of the Texas Revolution
- Adolph E. Borie (1809–1880), Secretary of the Navy
- Charles Brown (1797–1883), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- George Bryan (1731-1791), colonial Pennsylvania businessman and politician
- John Cassin (1813–1869), ornithologist
- George William Childs (1829–1894), newspaper publisher
- William P. Clyde (1839–1923), American shipping magnate
- Walter Colton (1797–1851), Chaplain, Alcalde of Monterey, author, publisher of California's first newspaper
- David Conner (1792–1856), U.S. naval officer
- Robert T. Conrad (1810–1858), mayor of Philadelphia
- Joel Cook (1842–1910), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- Robert Cornelius (1809–1893), pioneering photographer
- Martha Coston (1826–1904), inventor and businesswoman
- Thomas Jefferson Cram (1804-1883), engineer in the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers during the U.S. Civil War
- Samuel W. Crawford (1829–1892), Union army general
- Alexander Cummings (1810-1879), third Governor of the Territory of Colorado
- Louisa Knapp Curtis (1851–1910), journalist and magazine publisher
- John A. Dahlgren (1809–1870), U.S. naval officer
- Ulric Dahlgren (1842-1864), U.S. Army Captain during Civil War, namesake of The Dahlgren Affair
- Richard Dale (1756–1826), Revolutionary naval officer
- Henry Deringer (1786–1868), gunsmith
- Hamilton Disston (1844-1896), industrialist and real-estate developer
- Henry Disston (1819–1878), businessman, Disston Saw Works
- Ida Dixon (1854–1916), socialite and first female golf course architect in the United States
- Percival Drayton (1812-1865), U.S. Navy officer
- William Drayton (1776-1846), politician, banker and writer
- William Duane (1760-1835), journalist
- William Duane (1872-1935), physicist
- William J. Duane (1780-1865), U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in 1833
- Robley Dunglison, (1798-1869), "Father of American Physiology"
- Nathan Dunn (1782-1844), businessman and philanthropist
- George Meade Easby (1918–2005), great-grandson of General George Meade and a celebrity figure
- George Nicholas Eckert (1802–1865), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- William Lukens Elkins (1832-1903), businessman, inventor, art collector
- Charles Ellet, Jr. (1810-1862), civil engineer
- Charles Rivers Ellet (1843-1863), Colonel in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War
- Alfred L. Elwyn (1804-1884), Physician and pioneer in the management of the mentally disabled
- Jehu Eyre (1738-1781), businessman, veteran of the French and Indian War and American Revolutionary War
- Edwin Henry Fitler (1825-1896), 75th mayor of Philadelphia
- Wilmot E. Fleming (1916-1978), Pennsylvania State Representative and Senator
- Robert H. Foerderer (1860–1903), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- Stanely Hamer Ford (1877-1961), U.S. Army General
- Adam Forepaugh (1831–1890), an entrepreneur, businessman, and circus owner
- Anne Francine (1917-1999) actress and cabaret singer
- Samuel Gibbs French (1818–1910), Confederate General has a cenotaph in his family's plot in Laurel Hill.
- Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980), sculptor
- Frank Furness (1839–1912), Medal of Honor recipient, architect
- Horace Howard Furness (1833-1912), American Shakespearean scholar
- William Henry Furness (1802-1896), American clergyman, theologian, Transcendentalist, abolitionist, and reformer
- William Gilmore (1895-1969), Olympic rower
- Charles Gilpin (1809-1891), Mayor of Philadelphia from 1851 to 1854
- Henry D. Gilpin (1801–1860), U.S. Attorney General
- Louis Antoine Godey (1804–1878) American editor and publisher
- Thomas Godfrey (1704–1749), optician and inventor
- Sylvanus William Godon (1809-1879), U.S. Naval officer
- Frederick Graff (1775-1847), hydraulic engineer, designer of the Fairmount Water Works
- George Rex Graham (1813-1894), journalist, editor and publisher
- Frederick Gutekunst (1831-1917), prominent photographer
- Henry Schell Hagert (1826–1885), writer, poet, Philadelphia district attorney
- Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879), writer, poet
- Frederick Halterman (1831–1907), U.S. Congressman
- James Harper (1780–1873), U.S. Congressman
- Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler (1770–1843), first superintendent of the United States Coast Survey
- Joseph Hemphill (1770–1842), U.S. Congressman
- Alexander Henry (1823–1883), Civil War mayor of Philadelphia
- Henry Wilson Hodge (1865–1919), engineer
- Isaac Hull (1773–1843), Commodore, USN, captained Constitution to victory over HMS Guerriere
- Caroline Furness Jayne (1873-1909) American ethnologist
- Owen Jones (1819–1878), U.S. Congressman
- James Juvenal (1874-1942), Olympic rower
- Harry Kalas (1936–2009), Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster
- Elisha Kane (1820–1857), explorer
- John K. Kane (1795-1858), U.S. District Judge, Attorney General of Pennsylvania
- William D. Kelley (1814–1890), U.S. Congressman
- William J. Kirkpatrick (1838–1921), composer
- Samuel George King (1816-1899), 73rd mayor of Philadelphia
- James Kitchenman (1825���1909), textile manufacturer
- Lon Knight (1853-1932), professional baseball player
- Elie A. F. La Vallette (1790-1862), U.S. Navy, one of first rear admirals appointed in 1862
- Henry Charles Lea (1825–1909), historian, expert on The Spanish Inquisition
- Michael Leib (1760–1822), U.S. Congressman
- Lewis Charles Levin (1808–1860), U.S. Congressman
- Rachel Lloyd (1839-1900), first U.S. woman to receive Ph.D. in chemistry
- George Horace Lorimer (1868–1937), journalist, author
- Charles Macalester (1798–1873), businessman, Presbyterian Church philanthropist, and namesake of Macalester College
- Alexander Kelly McClure (1828-1909), Pennsylvania State Senator for the 18th district in 1861 and the 4th district in 1873
- George Deardorff McCreary (1846-1915), U.S. Congressman
- Thomas McKean (1734–1817), lawyer and politician, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
- Morton McMichael (1807-1879), editor The Saturday Evening Post, publisher The North American, veteran American Civil War. Mayor of Philadelphia (1866-1869)
- George Gordon Meade (1815–1872), Union General, victor at the Battle of Gettysburg
- Charles Delucena Meigs (1792-1869), American obstetrician who opposed anesthesia
- George Wallace Melville (1841-1912), U.S. Navy Admiral, engineer, Arctic explorer, author
- Hugh Mercer (1726–1777), Continental general in the American Revolution
- Samuel Mercer (1799-1862), Union naval officer
- Helen Abbott Michael (1857–1904), plant chemist
- William Millward (1822–1871), U.S. Congressman
- E. Coppée Mitchell (1836-1887), Professor and Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School
- John Moffet (1831–1884), U.S. Congressman
- Edward Joy Morris (1815–1881), U.S. Congressman
- James St. Clair Morton (1829-1864), Union general in the Civil War
- Alexander Murray (1755-1821), American officer during the Revolutionary War
- Henry Morris Naglee (1815-1886), Union General during the U.S. Civil War
- Charles Naylor (1806–1872), U.S. Congressman
- Matthew Newkirk (1794-1868), businessman, railroad president
- John Notman (1810–1865), architect and designer of Laurel Hill
- Joshua T. Owen (1822-1887), Union brigadier general during the Civil War
- Francis E. Patterson (1821–1862), Union general in the Civil War
- Robert Patterson (1792-1881), Irish-born United States major general during the American Civil War
- Titian Peale (1799–1885), artist
- John C. Pemberton (1814–1881), Confederate Civil War General
- Garrett J. Pendergrast (1802–1862), U.S. Civil War naval officer
- Mary Engle Pennington (1872–1952), US scientist and refrigeration pioneer
- Boies Penrose (1860–1921), U.S. Senator
- William Pepper (1843-1898), physician, Provost of University of Pennsylvania, founder Free Library of Philadelphia
- Samuel J. Randall (1828–1890), U.S. Congressman
- George C. Read (1788-1862), U.S. Naval officer
- Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–1872), American poet, sculptor, portrait-painter
- Joseph Reed (1741–1785), Continental Congressman
- John E. Reyburn (1845–1914), U.S. Congressman, mayor of Philadelphia
- William S. Reyburn (1882–1946), U.S. Congressman
- David Rittenhouse (1732–1796), astronomer, inventor, mathematician, surveyor
- John Robbins (1808–1880), U.S. Congressman
- Moncure Robinson (1802-1891), civil engineer and railroad planner
- William Ronckendorff (1812-1891), U.S. Naval officer
- Richard Rush (1780–1859), U.S. Attorney General
- Lawrence Saint (1885–1961), stained glass artist
- John Morin Scott (1789-1858), mayor of Philadelphia from 1841 to 1844
- John Sergeant (1779-1852), U.S. Congressman and 1832 Republican vice presidential nominee
- Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant (1746–1793), Continental Congressman
- Adam Seybert (1773-1825), U.S. Congressman
- George Sharswood (1810-1883) Pennsylvania jurist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
- Charles Ferguson Smith (1807–1862), U.S. Army General
- John Rowson Smith (1810-1864), panorama painter
- John T. Smith (1801-1864), U.S. Congressman for Pennsylvania's 3rd congressional district from 1843-1845
- Persifor Frazer Smith (1798-1858), U.S. Army officer
- John Batterson Stetson (1830-1906), hat manufacturer, reinterred to West Laurel Hill Cemetery
- William S. Stokely (1823-1902), 72nd mayor of Philadelphia
- Witmer Stone (1866–1939), ornithologist, botanist
- Thomas Sully (1783–1872), portrait painter
- Alfred Sully (1820-1879), soldier, painter, actor
- Charles Thomson (1729–1824), secretary of the Continental Congress
- George Washington Toland (1796–1869), U.S. Congressman
- Laura Matilda Towne (1825-1901), abolitionist and educator
- Levi Twiggs (1793–1847), officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, killed at the Battle of Chapultepec
- Hector Tyndale (1821-1880), Union general during the American Civil War and protector of the wife of abolitionist John Brown
- Job Roberts Tyson (1803–1858), U.S. Congressman
- Richard Vaux (1816–1895), U.S. Congressman, mayor of Philadelphia
- Thomas Ustick Walter (1804–1887), architect
- Joseph Wharton (1826-1909), American industrialist who founded the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, co-founded the Bethlehem Steel company, and was one of the founders of Swarthmore College
- Jonathan Williams (1751–1815), U.S. Army officer and first superintendent of West Point
- Eleanor Elkins Widener, wife of George Widener, survivor of RMS Titanic sinking, responsible for Harry Elkins Widener Library at Harvard University
- Peter A. B. Widener (1834–1915), business tycoon, philanthropist
- Harry Elkins Widener (1885-1912), businessman, bibliophile, victim of sinking of RMS Titanic
- Joseph E. Widener (1871–1943), thoroughbred owner/breeder
- Isaac J. Wistar (1827–1905), Union Army general and penologist
- Owen Wister (1860–1938), novelist, author of The Virginian
- Jacob Zeilin (1806–1880), 7th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps' first general officer
In popular culture
- The young adult book Tombstone Tea by Joanne Dahme takes place in Laurel Hill Cemetery and some of the well-known people buried there appear as characters.
- A headstone marks the grave of the fictional character Adrian Balboa from the Rocky movies. It was used as a prop in the 2006 motion picture Rocky Balboa which was filmed at the cemetery.
- In 2009, Laurel Hill was a movie location for the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
The Mother and Twins Monument was carved by Polish sculpture Henry Dmochowski-Saunders. It depicts his deceased wife Helena Schaff and their two deceased children
The sculpture Aspiration by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth
Sculpture on the Francis E. Patterson monument
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
- "General View of Laurel Hill Cemetery". The Library Company of Philadelphia. World Digital Library. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- National Historic Landmark Nomination, Aaron V. Wunsch, National Park Service, 1998.
- Listing Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine at the National Park Service
- "Laurel Hill Cemetery". www.associationforpublicart.org. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
- Tatman, Sandra L. "Smith, John Jay (1798 - 1881)". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- Keels 2003, p. 21.
- Keels 2003, p. 22.
- Yaster 2017, p. 15.
- Keels 2003, p. 23.
- Smith 1852, pp. 39-44.
- Keels 2003, p. 27.
- Douglas, Ann, The Feminization of American Culture, 1977, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 208-213. 
- Keels 2003, p. 30.
- Yalom, Marilyn (2008). The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-618-62427-0.
- Keels 2003, p. 26.
- Keels 2003, p. 33.
- Yaster 2017, p. 8.
- Laurel Hill Cemetery at Find-A-Grave
- Keels 2003, p. 31.
- "The Historic Buildings of the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania" (PDF). Community ArtsCenter.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- "Cleo - Laurel Hill Cemetery". www.waymarking.com. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
- Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: The Lives of the Union Commanders,. p. 569.
- Tombstone Tea Amazon listing Amazon.com. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
- Why does Rocky's wife get a tombstone at Laurel Hill?, by Dotun Akintoye, 18 July 2013, Philadelphia City Paper.
- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". www.movie-locations.com. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
- Mullen Tomb December 26, 1881 article from the New York Times.
- Keels 2003, p. 32.
- Keels, Thomas H. (2003). Philadelphia Graveyards & Cemeteries. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1229-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Smith, R.A. (1852). Smith's Illustrated Guide to and through Laurel Hill Cemetery. Willis P. Hazard.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Warner, Ezra (1964). Generals in Blue: The Lives of the Union Commanders. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7. LCCN 64-21593.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Yaster, Carol (2017). Laurel Hill Cemetery. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4671-2655-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Laurel Hill Cemetery.|
- Official website
- Historic American Buildings Survey, Laurel Hill Cemetery, HABS No. PA-1811 (Adobe .pdf format)
- Laurel Hill Cemetery at Find A Grave
- Our Burial Lot (Kennedy), North Laurel Hill Cemetery, June 14, 1875 by D.J. Kennedy, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Laurel Hill Cemetery sculptures, Association for Public Art website
- From the collection of The Library Company of Philadelphia: