Philadelphia is a historic city with lots of charm and beauty including its cemeteries and graveyards. Indeed, a person’s final burial place should elicit feelings of comfort and serenity, a bounty of beauteous nature. We’ve rounded up five historic cemeteries and graveyards in Philadelphia that are grassy, picturesque, and home to a few famous burials.
In the words of Philly’s own Benjamin Franklin, “show me your cemeteries and I will tell you what kind of people you have.”
Founded in 1836, Laurel Hill East Cemetery lays claims to being the first architecturally designed cemetery in the country. Located on a hillside along the Schuylkill River, the creation of Laurel Hill spearheaded a new type of graveyard. It offered families an alternative for burial- a peaceful and comforting intermission of reflection in a rural area vs. the urban press.
Visitors could mourn their dearly departed while walking the intentionally scenic grounds and taking in the architecture. Specifically, its design and landscaping being a balance to grief.
Identically, as Laurel Hill east became crowded, Laurel Hill West was born.
Not affiliated with any religion, Laurel Hill East was considered a cemetery for the elite with many generals and people from wartime.
Famous people buried at Laurel Hill East include survivors of The Titanic; Thomas McKean, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Sarah Josepha Hale, writer and activist; and Matthais Baldwin, the locomotive magnate.
You’ll also find famous families including Biddles, Bouviers, Furnesses, Leas, Whartons, Wideners, and Wisters.
With so many people buried here overtime, it is no wonder Laurel Hill East Cemetery is known as one of the most haunted places in Philadelphia.
🪦 Where: 3822 Ridge Avenue, Fairmount Park
Located along Cobbs Creek, straddling both Philadelphia and Yeadon, Mt. Moriah is undeniably the largest in cemetery in Pennsylvania. Founded in the 1850s, it was open for burial to not only Christians and Jews, but also, Muslims and African Americans. In 2004, the last surviving board member of the historical graveyard died, and thus the cemetery was closed for good shortly thereafter in 2011.
After the cemetery was abandoned by its owners, The Friends of Mount Moriah, Inc. formed. The group has been working diligently since 2011 to restore the beautiful rolling hills and landscape. Their mission is to make the grounds accessible for families to safely visit their loved ones while creating a place for people to connect with nature, take a walk, ride bikes, bird watch, and find serenity in the middle of a densely urban environment.
🪦 Where: 6102 Kingsessing Avenue
Located in the historic Philadelphia neighborhood of Old City and founded in 1695 by William Penn’s charter, Christ Church Burial Ground is one of America’s most unique Colonial and Revolution-era graveyards.
In the beginning, Christ Church buried the earliest members of the congregation in the churchyard. Generally, this was a common Christian and European practice. Overtime, the churchyard became full. Christ Church purchased two-acres of land at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets.
A two-acre, 1,400 marker cemetery was established in 1719.
The Burial Ground became the final resting place for over 4,000 members of Christ Church. This includes five signers of the Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Hewes, Francis Hopkinson, George Ross, and Dr. Benjamin Rush.
Evidently, there are many Philadelphians who believe Christ Church Burial Ground to be one of Philly’s haunted historic cemeteries. Indeed, many people have reported seeing Ben Franklin’s ghostly apparition roaming about.
🪦 Where: 5th & Arch Streets
Before becoming one of Philly’s historic cemeteries, The Woodlands began as the estate of Philadelphian, William Hamilton. Hamilton (1745-1813) was a wealthy botanist and grandson of Andrew Hamilton. During a trip to England, the landscaping and architecture inspired Hamilton. Upon returning back home, Hamilton ordered for the reconstruction of his mansion and grounds. Comparatively, he wanted it to mimic what he observed in England, winding pathways, and captivating shrubbery abound.
In 1840, a group of wealthy investors brought the land and transformed it into a cemetery. Named a National Historic Landmark in 2006, this park-like setting located in bustling University City, offers an oasis of nature for its residents, joggers, walkers, and nature enthusiasts.
Furthermore, you’ll also find Campbell’s Soup founder, Joseph Campbell buried here.
🪦 Where: 4000 Woodland Avenue
Established in 1740, The Mikveh Israel Cemetery is the oldest record of the Philadelphia Jewish community. Nestled in Philly’s historic Old City, it’s just a 30×30 lot. First the cemetery was establish by prominent merchant Nathan Levy. Accordingly, Levy sought a parcel of land from Thomas Penn on which he could bury his son in accordance with Jewish law.
Notably, the cemetery is the final burial place for Haym Salomon, who was a key figure in the American Revolution, influential pioneer Aaron Levy, and members of the Gratz and Phillips families. Also, Buried here is Nathan Levy and members of the Mikveh Israel Synagogue.
🪦 Where: 831 Spruce Street