Cemeteries, New Orleans
An organization dedicated to "preserving, protecting, and and promoting the historic cemeteries of New Orleans," is Save Our Cemeteries, Inc. They operate some great tours but on a limited basis. No reservations are accepted and space is limited, so it's first come, first served !! Get there early !!
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Founded in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the final resting place of some of the most notable citizens of New Orleans. You will see the famed "oven wall vaults" where the notorious "Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau" is enterred. Etienne de Bore, pioneer in sugar development; Daniel Clark, financial supporter of the American Revolution; Paul Morphy, former world Chess Champion are but a few of the local giants buried here. New Orleans' French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese immigrants are buried in lavish crypts here and there are many stories to be told.
Meet your guide on SUNDAYS ONLY at the Royal Blend Coffee Shop at 621 Royal Street. Tours are 1.5 hours. "Suggested " donations are $12 adult; $10 Senior Citizens; $6 students 12 -18; FREE children under 12.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
The younger Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 founded in 1833, has been in continuous use ever since. Located in the beautiful "Garden District" and was once part & parcel of Livaudais Plantation, this cemetery was layed out so as to accommodate funeral processions by intersecting avenues, and was the city's first "planned" cemetery. Its history, location and architectural significance led to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tours leave from the cemetery's main gate on the 1400 block of Washingon Avenue (15 minute street car ride from Canal Street ~ St. Charles Avnue Line) on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, & Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. sharp! Also no reservations; space limited. Tours are 1 hr. Suggested donation is $6 adults; $5 Senior Citizens & students; children 12 and under FREE.
The above-ground tombs in the cemeteries of New Orleans are often referred to as "cities of the dead."
Votive candles line tombs on holidays to remind you the Dead have living relatives that still care.
Early settlers in the area struggled with different methods to bury the dead. Burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float. You just can't keep a good person down!
The early settlers tried by placing stones in and on top of coffins to weigh them down and keep them underground. Unfortunately, after a rainstorm, the rising water table would literally pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. To this day, unpredictable flooding still lifts an occasional coffin out of the ground in those areas generally considered safe from flooding and above the water table.
Another method tried was to bore holes in the coffins. This method also proved to be unsuitable. Eventually, New Orleans' graves were kept above ground following the Spanish custom of using vaults.
The walls of these cemeteries are made up of economical vaults that are stacked on top of one another. The rich and wealthier families could afford the larger ornate tombs with crypts. Many family tombs look like miniature houses complete with iron fences. The rows of tombs resemble streets. New Orleans burial plots quickly became known as "Cites of the Dead."
On your way into New Orleans from the airport, you can glimpse the newer Metairie Cemeteries.
Caution: The "Cities of the Dead" are alluring, but dangerous. Don't go there alone-- travel with a group or arrange to attend a tour. The narrow paths and tombs offer concealment for muggers.
Tours of the cemeteries are conducted by several tour companies; these tours are definitely unique, and are worth the memories!
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I had heard about the above ground burials that were flooded and so wanted to see what happened. Most cemetaries appeared to have survived the flooding due to the heavy materials of which they are made. A few tombs need some expensive repair though. I didn't have time to survey the entire graveyard, but it appeared to be intact after Katrina
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.
"ToMb iT mAY cONceRn"
New Orleans inhabitants often refer to their cemeteries as Cities of the Dead. They are quite unique but not totally uncommon. They are definitely an important part of New Orleans' heritage and are architecturally and historically significant as indicated by the fact that at least 2 of the oldest, and most notable have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This cemeteries consists of crypts above ground because New Orleans lies below sea level...digging graves in this area would mean striking water and floating caskets and hence, crypts are naturally above ground structures. These crypts, dating to the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, are the resting places of some of quite famous people.
See more details in Part II.
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.
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.
They call the cemeteries in New Orleans "cities of the Dead". Surrounded by eight foot walls are tombs upon tombs upon tombs. The ones in the pictures, they call "ovens" (for obvious reasons). Some graves are crumpling away so bad, you swear you see bones. Some are untouched. All types of people are buried in these cemeteries surrounding the French Quarter....aristocrats, pirates, voodoo queens!!
Muggers have been known to take advantage of the many hiding places, so travel with a group is best. Walking tours are offered....information is everywhere! If tours aren't your thing, go in the morning and eavesdrop on one of the MANY tours that pass through.
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 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
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.
Above ground 'burials' are done in many places where there is a high water table and below sea level New Orleans is one of those places. How intrigued my dad was with the cemeteries in 1950!!
While most people seem to visit the older St. Louis #1 or one of the Metarie cemeteries, our city tour took us to St. Louis #3 - conveniently located next to the racetrack and Bayou St. John. City Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks is also nearby. In 1854 was built on a former graveyard for lepers because of a desperate need for burial space after the most ravaging outbreak of yellow fever in New Orleans history.
Since the cemetery’s opening, it has been used steadily. Today, it has over four hundred interments a year and a waiting list to purchase burial space. Even though burial plots are crowded together, broad main aisles give the cemetery a wide-open appearance. The main aisles are named after saints; the cross aisles are named for bishops and archbishops.
The cemetery contains several tombs for members of fraternal societies, vaults for priests and nuns, and tombs for many historic and prominent personages in New Orleans history including
* Estopinal, Albert b. January 30, 1845 d. April 28, 1919 US Congressman, elected to represent Louisiana's 1st District in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1908 until his death in 1919. Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana from 1900 to 1904. He served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
* Millet, Clarence b. March 25, 1897 d. August 23, 1959 a noted Artist. A self-taught painter, his works have been displayed at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and the Art Institute of Chicago.
* Nash, Charles Edmund b. May 23, 1844 d. June 21, 1913 A US Congressman elected to represent Louisiana's 6th District in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1875 to 1877. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 8:00 A.M.; Sun. & Holidays, 8:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M.
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.
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