Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries
Who’s who of deceased Philadelphia in a magnificent setting
Visiting Historic Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill evokes a time a century ago 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, the original Laurel Hill Cemetery calls itself “a landscape of local heroes,” with a slew of famous folks buried there who prospered from Revolutionary times to the late 20th century. There is Thomas McKean, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Matthew Baldwin, the locomotive magnate; and Owen Wister, author of The Virginian. West Laurel Hill, across the Schuylkill, tends to have more modern folks, like members of the Calder sculpting family, condensed soup inventor John Dorrance and publisher Cyrus Curtis.
Laurel Hill Cemetery was laid out on a series of winding paths above the Schuylkill River in 1836. It lays claim to being the first architecturally designed cemetery in the country. It became the cemetery of the elite and was a popular burial place for Civil War generals, including George Meade, the Union victor at Gettysburg. West Laurel Hill opened after Laurel Hill started becoming too crowded.
Open Mon – Sat
Appreciate the 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.