New Orleans is loaded with above ground cemetaries, necessary due the city being below sea level. This is the one time I would recommend taking a guided walking tour because they can be somewhat dangerous places if you are alone. They are unique, however, and worth seeing.
When you walk around these old cemetaries you notice the beauty and elaborate-ness ..You feel the history. Most graves are above ground plots because of our sea level. Its nice to go on a misty rainy day ...just don't forget the gates close @ 5pm or you'll be locked in!!!!OVERNIGHT
There's something eerie about a visit to the cemetery - and the fact that the cemeteries are tourist attractions is a bit more eerie. But once you walk through the rows and rows of above ground tombs, there's something peaceful about the visit.
Because much of New Orleans is marshland, the dead have to be buried above ground. Locals learned of this the hard way when bodies started coming up from six feet under after heavy rains a long, long time ago. Now, the dead are buried in above ground tombs.
New Orleans is know for its cemetaries. We had read warnings about the cemetary tours and were even warned personally by people in New Orleans not to visit the cemetaries alone. Some of them are known for being unsafe to visit alone. We were advised to take escorted tours. I agree with this advise and pass it along to anyone visiting New Orleans for the first time. We saw several cemetaries in some unsafe areas and it was obvious you could get into trouble. The cemetary we visited was St. Louis #3. It was just a couple of blocks from The New Orleans City Park and directly on a bus stop. The area was very open and seemed safe. So we got off of the bus after visiting the City Park and took a personal tour of this cemetary.
The St Louis Cemetary is adjacent to the French Quarter. This is where the Vodoo queen Marie Laveau is buried. This is also place where part of Easy Rider was shot. The picture shows the grave that Peter Fonda was climbing on his acid trip in Easy Rider.
The water table is high in New Orleans and therefore the Spanish custom of above ground tombs are used instead of burying the dead which makes the cemetery's quite unique and quite a visitor attraction. A lot that have deteriorated over time but many have been preserved or are in the state of being restored. There is quite a mix of elaborately and even architecturally designed tombs.
In earlier times, settlers used the underground method to bury their people and used to place stones inside and on top of the coffins to weigh them down in an endeavour to keep them underground when flooding occurred. They even tried to bore holes in the coffins which wasn't the greatest of ideas either. Even today occasional flooding will cause coffins to rise out of the ground in areas not usually affected by water and therefore not buried above ground.
Walk past any cemetery in New Orleans, and you'll notice a fascinating feature of this city: In New Orleans, the dead are buried in above ground tombs. These tombs are elegant monuments, some dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The main reason for the above ground tombs is because of the very high water table, which precludes burying underground.
Not all of the cemeteries are open to tourists. However, there are two worth visiting:
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District. You can find a number of prominent New Orleanians buried there. Designated a city burial site in 1833, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is placed on the National Register of Historic Places by virtue of its significant history, location, and architectural importance.
St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, founded in 1789, is the burial ground of some of the most famous figures from the city's past. Here you will find the supposed tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau: Etienne Bore, pioneer in sugar development; and, Paul Morphy, world famous chess champion and many more.
It is recommended to take a guided tour as it is said that wandering around alone on the cemetaries is not so safe, especially in St. Louis'.
I took a taxi one day while in New Orleans. The cab driver was the tops! He told me that for a extra $20.00 he could do a tour for me. So I hired him to take me to the graveyard. As I walked around he followed behind to make sure no one bothered me. It was great, I had the graveyard to myself!
A little side note: the best head stone I saw said:”Closed Forever.” HA!
Anyhow Roy’s Taxi service now has 2 full time guys. It costs about the same as to take a tour, but you have a private van (up to 6 people).
Roy’s Taxi: Car Phone 514-323-3112/ Home phone 504-828-8605/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Touring the cemetaries are interesting because of the history of the family generations. The beautifully decorated architecture of the tombs are a delight to the ambience. During the day you can walk in without a guide or ask one of the tour hosts in the quarter area for ticket info.
As morbid as this may sound, you must take a walking tour of either St. Louis or Lafayette cemetaries. The tombs are all above ground due to the water table being so high in the area, the coffins would not stay under ground! 'Historic New Orleans Walking Tours' offers entertaining & historically accurate tours daily.
Call 504-947-2120 or visit their website http://www.tourneworleans.com
Believe it or not the cemetaries in New Orleans are very famous and often a frequent travel spot. They are very old and hold tons of history. Many famous figures are buried in these above groud cemetaries.
The above grouns cemeteries are a site for those not use to seeing such a thing. You can just drive by them, or take a guided tour!!!
Visit the old cemeteries and see how all the graves are above ground. New Orleans is below the water level.