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Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries

Who’s who of deceased Philadelphia in a magnificent setting...

Photo courtesy Laurel Hill Cemetery

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Visiting historic Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill evokes a bygone era when cemeteries were built intentionally in scenic areas, and visitors would come to walk the grounds not in mourning but to see the wondrous architecture and peaceful landscapes.

High above the Schuylkill River, a slew of the famous folks buried here are people who prospered from Revolutionary times to the late 20th century.

Laurel Hill houses the remains of Thomas McKean, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman credited with establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday and author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”; and Matthais Baldwin, the locomotive magnate.

West Laurel Hill, across the river, serves as the final resting place for modern figures like members of the Calder sculpting family and publisher Cyrus Curtis.

Admission is free.

The History

Laurel Hill Cemetery was the first architecturally designed cemetery in the country.

Laurel Hill Cemetery was laid out on a series of winding paths above the Schuylkill River in 1836 — intended to not only be a non-denominational burial place, but also a scenic sanctuary for the living.

It lays claim to being the first architecturally designed cemetery in the country.

Laurel Hill became the cemetery of the elite and was a popular burial place for Civil War generals, including George Meade, the Union victor at Gettysburg. Victims from the Titanic are also buried here.

West Laurel Hill opened after Laurel Hill started becoming too crowded.

Don’t Miss

A monthly walking tour of the cemetery — aptly named Hot Spots and Storied Plots — gives visitors the can’t-miss inside scoop on some of the folks buried there.

Also, don’t miss out on exploring the great architecture of many of the tombstones and mausoleums. The William Warner tomb at Laurel Hill, designed by Alexander Milne Calder, the sculptor of the William Penn statue atop City Hall, shows the soul coming out of the tomb in a puff of smoke.

In the warmer months, guests can even enjoy yoga classes or run the annual RIP 5K through the cemetery.

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