April 16, 2012 – If the title sounds a little like an oxymoron, you should know before you continue to read on that I believe cemeteries can be beautiful, peaceful places, and that they cry out to be visited, especially in the spring when life is beginning again. They are great places to walk alone with your thoughts and really put things into perspective. One glance at the picture below backs my theory.
I’ve always been fascinated by cemeteries, although I come from a family who doesn’t visit the graves of relatives. I used to enjoy walking through them as a child, reading the gravestones and wondering about the people buried beneath them and the stories they could tell. And as the years went on, that didn’t change.
After I saw the weekend weather report, I decided that Saturday would be a perfect day to visit Laurel Hill Cemetery, which describes itself as Philadelphia’s Underground Museum, with 78 acres rich with history and beautiful landscaping overlooking the Schuylkill River.
Laurel Hill, which dates back to America’s pre-Revolutionary War colonies, is one of the few cemeteries in the United States that carries the designation of a National Historic Landmark. It sits right off of Kelly Drive and its quaint Boat House Row, where it intersects with Ridge Avenue. It’s the final resting place for many famous Philadelphians, along with generals from the French and Indian Wars through the Civil War. Interestingly, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I also learned that there are six passengers buried there.
The cemetery is open daily until dusk, and visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds on their own, or with a tour group. The grounds are popular with joggers, bicyclists, nature lovers, and amateur photographers like me. Here are other shots from my visit: