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Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans | © Nam Vũ/WikiCommons
Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans | © Nam Vũ/WikiCommons

A Guide To New Orleans' Cemeteries

Picture of Rebeca Trejo
Updated: 5 October 2016
Sitting over burial grounds is New Orleans, an eerie territory where century-old cemeteries are considered as must-see tourist destinations. Dating back to the late 1700s, the historic ‘Cities of the Dead,’ as they are known, fill the natural landscape with elaborate stone crypts, ornate tombs, beautiful sculptures and mausoleums. These mysterious necropolis, which are assembled above land because the city is built on a swamp, are popular among visiting travelers because they house and honor some of NOLA’s most iconic characters. Here’s our guide to exploring New Orleans’ popular resting places.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Built during the late 1700s, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest existing cemetery in the city of New Orleans. The historic burial ground, which is included on the national register of historic places and the Louisiana African American heritage trail, sits on the north side of Basin Street, one block beyond the inland border of the French Quarter. Significant NOLA figures laid to rest here include wealthy sugar pioneer and first city mayor, Etienne de Bore, Homer Plessy, plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court landmark 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, the first African-American mayor of New Orleans, Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, and renowned voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.

425 Basin St. New Orleans, Louisiana 70112, +1 (504) 596 3050

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2

Bordering Claiborne Avenue, St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 was established in 1820 as a new site removed from the center of the city by the City Council, following the belief that yellow fever, cholera and other infectious diseases were being stemmed by “miasmas” from the cemeteries. Surrounded by wall vaults, ornate ironwork and Greek revival-styled tombs, this eerie necropolis, which was listed in the national register of historic places in 1975, is the place where a number of jazz and rhythm and blues legends, such as Danny Barker and Ernie K. Doe, were buried. Another notable character entombed inside the St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 grounds is Andre Cailloux, African-American Union hero who was killed in combat during the American Civil War.

300 N Claiborne Ave New Orleans, Louisiana 70112, +1 (504) 596 3050

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

Located in the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is a non-denominational, non-segregated burying ground shaded by groves of lush greenery. Built in 1833, the cryptic land, which exudes a strong sense of Southern gothic, is the oldest of seven municipal, city-operated cemeteries in New Orleans. Named after the city of its own name, the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the place where many society tombs such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the German Presbyterian Community, the Home for Destitute Orphan Boys, and the New Orleans Home for the Incurables, were laid to rest. However, the most popular residents of the graveyard are fictional, considering author and native New Orleanian, Anne Rice, used the place as inspiration for burying The Mayfair Witches and viciously evil vampire Lestat.

1416-1498 Washington Ave New Orleans, Louisiana 70130, +1 (504) 658 3781

Charity Hospital and Katrina Memorial Cemetery

Located on Canal Street, Charity Hospital and Katrina Memorial Cemetery is the graveyard were thousands of unfortunate indigents claimed by yellow fever where laid to rest. The Charity Hospital, which received 87 corpses in the span of four days during 1847, closed permanently after Hurricane Katrina made its historic landfall. The Katrina Memorial, built on the site of the vanished hospital, opened in 2007 to honor the storm’s unclaimed victims.

5050 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70119, +1 (225) 342 9500

Greenwood Cemetery

Established by the Firemen’s Charitable and Benevolent Association, the Greenwood Cemetery was founded in 1855. Greenwood is one of New Orleans’ largest cemeteries in volume, housing over 20,500 lots. Even though the entrance is adorned by five beautiful memorials, tombs in this cemetery are arranged to create maximum capacity. The memorials include the Firemen’s monument, a neo-gothic design inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s monument in Edinburgh, the Elk’s tomb, erected in 1912 by Weiblen as a symbol of fraternity, and the tombs of Michael J. Mckay and John Fitzpatrick.

Location: 5200 Canal Blvd. New Orleans, Louisiana 70124, +1 (504) 482 8983

If you’re interested in learning about the history behind these spooky places as you tour the Big Easy, we’ve listed below some of the best companies offering guided cemetery tours:

French Quarter Phantoms
Historic New Orleans Tours
Ghost City Tours
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Save Our Cemeteries
Haunted History Tours
Bloody Mary’s Tours

 

By Rebeca Trejo