Headstones Philadelphia: Since the middle of the 17th century, cemeteries have been an important part of Philadelphia’s landscape. They started as small, private sites, church or rural cemeteries and potter’s fields but over the centuries have turned into big cemeteries and memorial parks.The burial yard at Fort Christina, which was established in 1642, is said to be the area’s first cemetery of European design. It was erected by Swedish colonists.
In 1646, the first European church cemetery was founded but was flooded by the Delaware River soon after. In 1677, another cemetery was established by the Swedes adjacent to the Gloria Dei church. It has become Philadelphia’s oldest surviving cemetery.
In Philadelphia’s East Falls section, Laurel Hill Cemetery can be found. It was founded in 1836 by John Jay Smith and encompasses 74 acres. It contains more than 11,000 family lots and 33,000 monuments in total, including obelisks, hillside tombs and mausoleums. In 1998 it became a National Historic Landmark, which was a great honour considering that only a few cemeteries received the distinction. Many victims of the American Civil War were laid to rest here, including 42 Civil War-era generals, as well as many celebrities (such as prominent political and business figures). For its monuments, a wide selection of materials were used – including sandstone, granite, marble and cast iron.
Benjamin Franklin was buried at Christ Church Burial Ground, amongst four other signers of the Declaration of Independence – Joseph Hewes, Francis Hopkinson, George Ross and Dr. Benjamin Rush. The cemetery can be found in the heart of historic Philadelphia and contains 1,400 markers. Benjamin Franklin was buried in his family plot after his death in 1790. Also buried here are his wife Deborah and Francis and Sarah, their two children. The cemetery was re-opened to the public in 2003 and now also runs guided tours (weather permitting). About 100,000 tourists visit each year. One can still view Benjamin Franklin’s grave even when the cemetery is closed through a set of iron rails. It has become tradition to leave pennies on his grave. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Another historic place in Philadelphia is St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, also known as Old St. Mary’s. The second Catholic Church in Philadelphia after St. Joseph’s, it opened its doors in 1763 and is still an active parish today. In 1793, the cemetery was enlarged after the yellow fever epidemic by adding an extra layer of soil to the ground level. The church was also the site of the first public religious commemoration of the Declaration of Independence. People who are buried here include:
John Barry, also known as the Father of the American Navy.
Michael Bouvier, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis’s great-great grandfather as well as some of his descendants.
Thomas Fitzsimons, who signed the Constitution.
Mathew Carey, early America’s most important publisher.
In southwest Philadelphia, Mount Moriah Cemetery, another historic burial ground, can be found. It was incorporated in 1855 and originally occupied 54 acres. Nowadays it is about 200 acres even though some reports say that it is 380 acres. Smaller lots were established by churches and other organisations within its bounds due to its size. More than 2,400 navy officers and sailors were buried here on the naval plot. It contains an ornate Romanesque entrance and gatehouse which were built of brownstone. Brownstone, a brown Triassic-Jurassic sandstone, was a popular building material at the time due to its durability. The cemetery closed its gates in 2011, a few years after Horatio Jones, the last known member of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association, had passed away. As of January 2013, the legal situation is unresolved as the cemetery has no known owner. The Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation was appointed as receiver for the neglected cemetery in 2014. The cemetery is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and efforts have since been made to raise funds to stabilise the gatehouse.
Gravestone and Monuments - Headstones Philadelphia
Throughout history, different cultures had their own burial rites which mirrored their beliefs around life and death. One of the most impressive monuments of all times have got to be the Egyptian pyramids. Such ostentatious burials and memorials were reserved for the highest officials and dignitaries though; in the lower social classes they were much simpler.
In our time and culture we have our own ideas and values when it comes to burials. But still, despite all the cultural and historical change, one thing remains: a gravestone is a last farewell and place of commemoration for our loved ones.
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