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The Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion

1840s cemetery and Federal-style mansion

Woodlands Cemetery

The Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion. Credit: B. Krist for GPTMC

Description

The Experience

It’s a fair guess that when Andrew Hamilton built his Federal-style mansion on his 250-acre estate, he didn’t expect it to be surrounded by a cemetery. During the Hamilton family’s glory days, the estate was a center for elegance and gracious entertaining. By the 1840s, the property fell into disrepair and the grounds were turned into a cemetery.

Winding brick paths follow Hamilton’s original landscape, meandering through the estate where headstones, ranging from the simple to the monumental, reveal a who’s who of 18th- and 19th-century Philadelphia. Artists Thomas Eakins and Rembrandt Peale, the Drexel and Biddle families, railroad magnates Asa Whitney and John Edgar Thompson, surgical pioneer Dr. Samuel Gross and dozens of others lie in repose in this urban oasis.

History

Renowned for his work in horticulture, landscape design and botany, William Hamilton, Andrew’s grandson, was asked by Thomas Jefferson to plant some seeds harvested during Lewis and Clark’s expeditions. Eventually, the estate boasted more than 10,000 species of plants. Today, more than 720 historic trees and plants have survived and are scattered throughout the property.

Other Information

Cemetery: Open daily. Woodlands Mansion: Mon – Thu

Insider Tip

If you visit when the cemetery office is open, stop in and get a map showing where people are buried. You can also tour the mansion. It is undergoing much-needed renovation, but it’s an amazing example of Federal architecture.

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