Nick McAllister, Executive Director of the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery and West Laurel Hill Cemetery, discussed Laurel Hill, the second rural cemetery and first cemetery to receive National Landmark status. Overlooking the Schuylkill River the cemetery was founded in 1836 as a final resting place to famous – and not so famous Philadelphians, and a arboretum retreat. He discussed its founding by John Jay Smith, then four miles outside of the city, and its goals of recognizing the accomplishments of its great men and women, and by default, the history of the city. He discussed Victorian attitudes toward death and the notables found there with their magnificent memorials and then the slow decline of the cemetery’s fortunes as attitudes changed and the city, and Fairmount Park, enclosed it.
We talked about the Friends founding in 1978 and their efforts to restore the 85 acres to their former glory. Nick told us of the many events held there each year. Tours, concerts, circuses and dramas are offered to raise funds for restoration. Tickets are now available for the annual Gravediggers Ball coming October 18. The black tie/costume ball will be held this year at the Mutter Museum.
We talked about the 11th annual REST IN PEACE 5k, October 5th, a timed, costume optional run through the cemetery. Register now at rip5k.org/
Today visitors are invited to walk, bike or walk dogs through the grounds. A downloadable app is available to create your own tour or you can get info and a map at the gatehouse. The cemetery is open every day. For more information about the cemetery and its residents visit thelaurelhillcemetery.org. You can also learn about Friend memberships that include members-only events and tour and gift shop discounts.