Laurel Hill Cemetery
Laurel Hill Cemetery
Gatehouse built in 1835.
|Location||3822 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Architect||John Notman et al.|
|Architectural style||Exotic Revival, Gothic, Classical Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||77001185|
|Added to NRHP||October 28, 1977|
Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the second major garden or rural cemetery in the United States. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998, one of only a few cemeteries to receive the distinction.
The cemetery has spectacular vistas and thousands of 19th- and 20th-century marble and granite funerary monuments on 74 acres (300,000 m2) terraced above the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia's East Falls section. Obelisks dot the rolling terrain, which is highlighted by elaborately sculpted hillside tombs and mausoleums. Overall, Laurel Hill contains more than 33,000 monuments and more than 11,000 family lots.
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 in a Philadelphia churchyard. He and other prominent citizens decided to create a rural garden cemetery five miles north of Philadelphia, a location that 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.
Famous Revolutionary War figures were moved to Laurel Hill Cemetery to increase its cachet, 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. During and after the American Civil War, Laurel Hill became the final resting place of hundreds of military figures, including 42 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 manufactory in the world (the Disston Saw Works); and financier Peter A. B. Widener.
Designed by noted Scottish-American architect John Notman, Laurel Hill introduced new landscape ideas and burial concepts and became a model for the rural cemetery movement. Laurel Hill Cemetery stands as a rich repository of both art and historical artifacts. Its monuments embody the rich design, craftsmanship and iconography of 19th and 20th century American funerary art, from simple obelisks to elaborate mausoleums.
Much of the significance of Laurel Hill cemetery derives from its large number of mausoleums, built in a wide variety of styles by some of Philadelphia’s most distinguished families. 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. These monuments tell many stories of the history and evolution of not only the cemetery’s growth, but also of social and economic changes, the legacy of wars and of the individuals who shaped our nation’s history.
From its inception, Laurel Hill was intended as a civic institution designed for public use. In an era before public parks and museums, it was a multi-purpose cultural attraction where the general public could experience the art and refinement previously known only to the wealthy. Laurel Hill became an immensely popular destination in its early years and required tickets for admission. The writer Andrew Jackson Downing reported “nearly 30,000 persons…entered the gates between April and December, 1848.”
In 1978, the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded 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, in accordance with its by-laws, seek to achieve its mission by raising funds and seeking contributed services; by preparing educational and research materials emphasizing the historical, architectural and cultural importance of Laurel Hill Cemetery; and by providing tour guiding services so that the cemetery is available for educational use by the public.
In the 21st century, one notable burial used a modern Philadelphia icon as functional art. Two pairs of seats from Veterans Stadium were installed at the grave of Harry Kalas, Hall of Fame voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, in such a way that they could be used by fans paying their respects.
Some of the notable persons buried here are:
- 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
- Robert Montgomery Bird (1803–1854), American novelist, playwright, and physician
- David Bispham (1857–1921), opera singer
- 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
- John Cassin (1813-1869), ornithologist
- George William Childs (1829–1894), newspaper publisher
- 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
- Martha Coston (1826–1904), inventor and businesswoman
- Samuel W. Crawford (1829–1892), Union army general
- Louisa Knapp Curtis (1851–1910), journalist and magazine publisher
- John A. Dahlgren (1809–1870), U.S. naval officer
- Richard Dale (1756–1826), Revolutionary naval officer
- Henry Deringer (1786–1868), gunsmith
- Henry Disston (1819–1878), businessman, Disston Saw Works
- George Meade Easby (1918–2005), great-grandson of George Meade and a celebrity
- George Nicholas Eckert (1802–1865), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- Robert H. Foerderer (1860–1903), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
- Adam Forepaugh (1831–1890), an entrepreneur, businessman, and circus owner
- Frank Furness (1839–1912), Medal of Honor recipient, architect
- 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
- 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
- Owen Jones (1819–1878), U.S. Congressman
- Harry Kalas (1936–2009), Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster
- Elisha Kane (1820–1857), Explorer.
- William D. Kelley (1814–1890), U.S. Congressman
- William J. Kirkpatrick (1838–1921), composer
- Henry Charles Lea (1825–1909), historian
- Michael Leib (1760–1822), U.S. Congressman
- Lewis Charles Levin (1808–1860), U.S. Congressman
- George Horace Lorimer (1868–1937), journalist
- Thomas McKean (1734–1817), lawyer and politician, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
- George Gordon Meade (1815–1872), Union General, victor at the Battle of Gettysburg
- Hugh Mercer (1726–1777), Continental general in the American Revolution
- Helen Abbott Michael (1857–1904), plant chemist
- William Millward (1822–1871), U.S. Congressman
- John Moffet (1831–1884), U.S. Congressman
- Edward Joy Morris (1815–1881), U.S. Congressman
- Charles Naylor (1806–1872), U.S. Congressman
- John Notman (1810–1865), architect and designer of Laurel Hill
- Francis E. Patterson (1821-1862), Union general in the 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
- Boies Penrose (1860–1921), U.S. Senator
- Samuel J. Randall (1828–1890), U.S. Congressman
- 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
- Richard Rush (1780–1859), U.S. Attorney General
- Lawrence Saint (1885–1961), stained glass artist
- Jonathan Sergeant (1746–1793), Continental Congressman
- Charles Ferguson Smith (1807–1862), U.S. Army General
- Witmer Stone (1866–1939), ornithologist, botanist
- Thomas Sully (1783–1872), portrait painter
- Charles Thomson (1729–1824), secretary of the Continental Congress
- George Washington Toland (1796–1869), U.S. Congressman
- Levi Twiggs (1793–1847), officer in the U. S. Marine Corps
- Job Roberts Tyson (1803–1858), U.S. Congressman
- Richard Vaux (1816–1895), U.S. Congressman, mayor of Philadelphia
- Thomas Ustick Walter (1804–1887), architect
- Peter A. B. Widener (1834–1915), business tycoon, philanthropist
- 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
The tombstone created for Adrian Balboa, the fictional wife of Rocky Balboa from the Rocky movies, is just south of the main entrance. It was used during the filming of the 2006 motion picture Rocky Balboa.
- 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 Adrian Balboa . It was used as a prop when the movie Rocky Balboa was filmed at the cemetery.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- Listing at the National Park Service
- National Historic Landmark Nomination, Aaron V. Wunsch, National Park Service, 1998.
- Mullen Tomb December 26, 1881 article from the New York Times.
- Laurel Hill Cemetery at Find-A-Grave
- Warner, Ezra J., Unknown parameter
|(historian)page=ignored (help); Missing or empty
- 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
- Warner, Ezra J. (1964). Generals in Blue: The Lives of the Union Commanders. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Laurel Hill Cemetery.|
- Laurel Hill Cemetery, official web site
- Boneyard Bookworms, a book club sponsored by Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries.
- Historic American Buildings Survey, Laurel Hill Cemetery, HABS No. PA-1811 (Adobe .pdf format)
- Digital facsimile of 1876 Illustrated Philadelphia Directory with description of cemetery (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