New Orleans has many "above ground" cemeteries in town due to the fact that much of the city is at or below sea level. this one is just North of the French Quarter. Do not go here alone at night it is not in a good neighborhood.
It's not a case of being morbid, but the cemetaries in New Orleans give an insight into the practical difficulties of laying people to rest in an area that is at or below sea level. We visited St.Louis and Lafayette #3 cemetaries and learned about the practice of burying multiple bodies in one above ground tomb - and how they managed to get multiple bodies into such relatively small spaces. Won't spoil the surprise, but take a quick trip - its fascinating.
We visited one cemetery as part of the 2hr city VIP bus tour.
Taking a tour of one of the many unique and historical cemeteries is a must while you are in New Orleans. Again, there are many tour companies available that offer this service, some flashier than others, but we did some research and chose to go with a company called Save Our Cemeteries. It is a non-profit organization that helps fund the restoration (NOT renovation!) of the aging gravestones and tombs in the cemeteries. The tours are lead by passionate people with a genuine interest in the conservation of these landmarks and the rich histories that they offer. The tours for this cemetery leave from the lobby of the Basin Street Station and was easy to get to by taking the red trolley car.
We chose St. Louis #1 because it is the rumoured burial ground of the iconic Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the cemetery and those who are buried there. It was a great tour with the only down point being the eyesore of a tomb that Nicolas Cage has built on one of the few remaining plots that he purchased. The worst part about this monstrosity is the damage that was done to the surrounding tombs during the construction process by his crews.
You don't need a guide to visit some of the cemeteries in New Olreans---we went to Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District--there is plenty of street parking around it, and walked around marvelling at the statues and vaults with old New Orleans names..Established in 1833, it is the only cemetery in NO dedicated to anyone---Theodore Von La Hache was a musician around the early 1800's who founded the New Olreans Philharmonic Society and the cemetery was dedicated to him. Take your time and enjoy the sunshine and the unusual sculptures. Maybe you can surreptitiously follow a group tour......:>
Cemeteries in small villages can be very moving and romantic, picturesque; it is not exactly the case for St Louis Cemetery 3, but we are here in a big city and despite it is more than 100 years old, this cemetery, formerly known as “Bayou cemetery”, looks “modern”, manicured, has huge tombs, is not very “charming”. The nice thing here is to walk along the alleys, and look at the names, and notice that more than half of people having their last rest here have French names; I did not find famous names, did not find people from my region in France.
You may find here some fine marble tombs, a few sculptures (picture 2c*), and notice that many dead are above the ground, in “boxes” (picture 4); on picture 5, you can see examples of French names.
There are tens of cemeteries in New Orleans, and one of the best known is St Louis cemetery N°1, located next to the French Quarter, but was closed when I tried to visit, so I took the opportunity to visit this one when I passed by.
If you visit the website below, you will discover 36 other cemeteries of New Orleans, and it seems some are worth a visit.
A walk in the Garden District wouldn't be complete without a visit to Lafayette Cemetery #1. Like St. Louis #1 in the French Quarter, it is a walled enclosure of Latin-style, above-ground tombs. It differs in that it's not as old, not nearly as maze-like, and reflects its own unique chapter of New Orleans history.
The Garden District was mainly settled in the 1830's by Americans and immigrants looking for opportunity in the prospering city of New Orleans. Unwelcome by the Creole society in the Quarter - largely Catholic and fiercely proud of their status as "originals" - the newcomers built their homes in the new City of Lafeyette, southwest of the Quarter. The cemetery's monuments and tomb markings illustrate the addition of families from the Northern states, Ireland, Germany, Holland and other countries. It also marks the many lives lost during the yellow fever epidemic (see pix) and locals who fell during the Civil War.
A peaceful and pleasant place to explore, you can see this cemetery with a tour (see my tour tip) or on your own. The helpful assistant at the Garden District Visitor's Center said that it was very safe and although I did glimpse one fellow sleeping soundly behind a row of tombs, there were plenty of other visitors and groundskeepers around for company.
Cemetery hours are 7:00 - 2:30 M-F, 7:00 - 12:00 Sat., closed Sundays and holidays. Free.
I never saw anything like the coffins encrypted above the ground. We visited the cemeteries in the Garden District and another Lafayette #3 near the Art Museum on Esplanade. I was surprised at how busy the cemeteries were and how friendly everyone was.
I wanted to see at least one of the cemeteries but as I was on a budget I didn't really want to take a tour. By accident I was coming out of the quarter along the same street as a horse and carriage tour (they were moving along at walking pace) - I took the opportunity to shadow the small group across to the cemetery to see where the guide took them. They didn't venture very far inside the gates so I stuck to the same parts, and left when they did (being a lone female). I got a few pictures as I wanted, and as the tours where coming in every few minutes it's pretty easy to do this and maybe safer than being in there alone with your camera.
the cemeteries of new orleans are the most unique cemeteries in the united states. all of the tombs are built above ground because of the high water table of the area. many of these tombs are beautiful works of funerary art. there are a number of cemeteries around the city and the st. louis and lafayette are the most visited. sadly these cemeteries are unsafe for the tourist because of criminals that inhabit these places. the only safe way to visit these cemeteries is by guided tour. attached are a couple of tour web sites.
Metairie Lakelawn Cemetery offers a FREE self-guided CD audio tour and map. Just go to the sales office and ask - you leave your drivers licence as collateral, but there is no charge. This is a wonderful way to visit the cemetery and see the beautiful funereal architecture for which New Orleans is famous.
Notables buried in Metairie Cemetery include:
P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate military officer
John Bell Hood, Confederate military officer
William C. C. Claiborne, the first U.S. Governor of Louisiana
Marguerite Clark, stage & film actress
Dorothy Dix, advice columnist
Jim Garrison, New Orleans District Attorney
Andrew Higgins, inventor of the "Higgins Boat"
Al Hirt, jazz trumpeter
Mel Ott, Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Player
P. B. S. Pinchback, African American Governor of Louisiana for 35 days, 1872-1873
Louis Prima, bandleader
Stan Rice, poet
Norman Treigle, opera star
Alton Ochsner, Surgeon, Co-founder of Ochsner Clinic(now Ochsner Health System)
Al Copeland, Founder of Popeyes and serveral other restaurants.
New Orleans is plagued with soggy soil in low lying areas, so time has shown it futile to bury one's beloved underground in these places. Just as the Europeans discovered the advantages of above ground vaults, New Orleans has adopted that style of burial, as well.
Crypts provide a beautiful resting place and put an end to coffins rising up from the ground each time flooding is experienced. St. Louis cemetery #3 somewhat reminded us of Argentina, where we visited a very famous cemetery, Recoleta, where only the upper crust or the famous were permitted to lie within these elegant crypts.
Cautioned not to explore any of the cemeteries alone, we were able to do so through Tours by Isabelle. We skirted the edges of the cemetery, paying mind to the various styles of crypts but not venturing into the center of this city of the dead.
the lafayette cemetery no. 1 is in the garden district and is great to wander through. it's beautiful in all of its decay. the neighborhood, garden district, is amazing to see and commanders palace is on the corner across the street.
mon-fri 7am-2:30pm , sat 7am-12pm
If you love history, there's a ton of it to be learned by taking one of the cemetery tours. I stumbled upon one across from Commanders that was free but it's nice to make a donation because they can use the support. It sounds kind of creepy but the feeling goes away quickly.
On our Garden District Tour they took us to Lafayette Cemetery. (if anyone had seen the movie Double Jepordy with Ashley Judd - that is the cemetery and they showed us where she was).
It was intresting to hear how they do things here. For example they put the person who passed away in a coffin and put you in the vault for one year and one day. The New Orleans sun makes the body turn into ash. After that year and day they take out the casket and put the ashes in the bottom of the vault. So if you ever buy someones burial vault you can not move the ashes. So there is many familys combined in there we were told.
Also one weekend out of the year they have a cookout in the cemetery while they clean up the family vaults. Strange I know!! There were many of them that were run down.
Some of the graves are buried under ground as that is how they wanted or believe it should be. How they did that was they had dirt in cement that was raised from the ground, then they buried the loved ones in that dirt.
I went to the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 tour. It was the cemetery that the movie Double Jeopardy was filmed at and was also the inspiration behind Ann Rice's Interview with a Vampire... or so I was told. I thought it was a very interesting tour and had a few stories of the Yellow Fever outbreak in the 1870's.