Q: When are you open?
A: The cemetery is open seven days a week (Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM). The gates are open every holiday except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is no admission fee to visit the cemetery.
Q: Is Laurel Hill the oldest cemetery in Philadelphia?
A: No. Old Swedes’ Church (or Gloria Dei) is Philadelphia’s oldest church, and its graveyard has been in continuous use since the early 1700’s. However, Laurel Hill (founded in 1836) is the nation’s second rural or garden cemetery, designed as an arboretum and public garden. Laurel Hill also has the distinction of being the first cemetery in the nation to be named a National Historic Landmark, in 1998.
Q: Is Laurel Hill still an active cemetery?
A: Yes. The Laurel Hill Cemetery Company still has graves available for sale and continues to perform burials as needed. Currently we have plots available in Section Y and in Valley View. If you would like more information about burial policies or if you are interested in purchasing a grave, please contact us at 215-228-8200.
Q: Can I walk my dog in the cemetery?
A: Yes. We encourage our visitors to take advantage of our beautiful park-like setting and enjoy it with their friends and family, both human and animal. We ask that you be respectful of those buried here and their families by cleaning up after your pet. We also ask that you keep your pets on a leash at all times when inside the cemetery gates.
Q: Can I bike through the cemetery?
A: Yes. We encourage all kind of exercise in the cemetery and this is an ideal place for biking. We have several miles of paved pathways throughout the cemetery which are perfect for taking a ride on your bike. We are adjacent to the Schuylkill River Trail at the intersection of Kelly Drive and Hunting Park Avenue. You can enter the cemetery with your bike at the pedestrian gate at the intersection (there are a few steps), at the Hunting Park Avenue Gate, or at our Gatehouse on Ridge Avenue between Clearfield Street and Indiana Avenue.
Q: Can I take photographs of the grave stones?
A: Yes. We encourage amateur photography throughout the year. The cemetery has some of the most beautiful views of the Schuylkill River and there are many interesting sights throughout worthy of photographs. Any photography or videoing for other than amateur, personal use requires special permission. Please contact us at 215-228-8200 for more information. Visit our Rules and Regulations page for more information on our photography guidelines.
Q: Can I take grave stone rubbings?
A: No. Laurel Hill Cemetery asks that visitors refrain from taking gravestone rubbings. Although we appreciate your interest in taking home a piece of the cemetery, many of the older monuments are fragile and cannot stand the pressure caused by rubbing. For the safety of our visitors and our monuments we ask that you take a picture instead.
Q: Can we picnic in the cemetery?
A: Yes. We welcome picnickers and have a wealth of fantastic spots to enjoy your meal, with great river views and shady trees for sunny days. We have garbage and recycling receptacles by the gates for discarding your used items.
Q: Can I have my wedding/anniversary/birthday at the cemetery?
A: Yes. We are happy to host your special event at the cemetery. Please contact us at 215-228-8200 for more information.
Q: Do you host private tours? Can we tour at night?
A: Yes and yes. We can set up a private tour for your group, led by one of our guides during the day or evening. Please call us at 215-228-8200 for more information.
Q: Can I access the cemetery in a wheelchair?
A: Much of the cemetery grounds are accessible with a wheelchair, including all of the cemetery roads which are paved. Please note that not all pathways are accessible or paved and so it may not be possible to reach every gravesite in the cemetery. However, you can also drive inside the cemetery; just leave enough room for another car to pass if you decide to park.
If you are coming for a funeral, tour, or other event, please let us know ahead of time (call us at 215-228-8200) and we can make arrangements to accommodate you. Our tour guides are happy to make adjustments to their tour so that they stay near the roads.
Q: How can I get inside of a mausoleum?
A: If a person has the right (by way of family relations) to access a mausoleum, you must first arrange a visit through the cemetery staff. Please make sure to call well in advance of your visit.
Q: How big is the cemetery?
A: Approximately 78 acres.
Q: How many people are buried there?
A: Over 75,000 people and counting.
Q: How many monuments are there?
A: There are more than 30,000 monuments including upright headstones, flush markers, cradle graves, obelisks, and mausoleums.
Q: What is the largest monument?
A: The Henry Disston Family Mausoleum is the largest monument in the cemetery at 625 Square Feet (the structure is 25’ x 25’ and 50’ high). It originally cost $68,000 to build in 1877, which equates to nearly $1.4 Million in 2017 dollars.
Q: What is the tallest monument?
A: The Edwin Fitler Obelisk which stands at 55 feet tall. It was designed to be 10% the height of the Washington Monument, which was completed about a decade prior to Mr. Fitler’s death.
Q: When was the first burial at Laurel Hill Cemetery?
A: The first burial was that of Mercy Carlisle on October 21, 1836. Mercy was a humble Quaker woman who planned her own interment and in so doing started the tradition of burials at Laurel Hill Cemetery. There are many other residents who died before 1836 but were reinterred here after the cemetery’s founding. For example, Declaration of Independence signer Thomas McKean, who died in 1817, was originally buried in the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, but was disinterred and moved here in 1843. The founders of the cemetery were known to encourage families to move famous Philadelphians who had been buried elsewhere to Laurel Hill as a way to encourage others to buy graves near these famous folks.
Q: Who is the most famous person buried here?
A: Fame is subjective. All aspects of Philadelphia history – in fact, of American History – are represented at Laurel Hill. A Civil War buff might be impressed to hear that General George Gordon Meade is buried here, while a Phillies fan will instantly recognize the name Harry Kalas. As time goes on, various “celebrities” fall in and out of favor and some of those who used to be favorite stops for our visitors are now scarcely visited at all.
Q: Do you have Adrian Balboa’s gravestone?
A: The prop gravestone used in the filming of both Rocky Balboa (2006) and Creed (2015) was given to the Laurel Hill Cemetery on long term loan after the filming. The prop is currently located on the south side of the cemetery gatehouse. The original filming location is in the south section of the cemetery next to the grave of General John C. Pemberton. NB: Adrian Balboa is a character and not a real person and therefore is not actually buried here at the cemetery (Nor anywhere else).
Q: Were there any other movies filmed at Laurel Hill?
A: Yes. Laurel Hill Cemetery has been a favorite film location for several directors. In addition to Rocky Balboa (2006) and Creed (2015), other movies filmed on the grounds of the cemetery include: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Happy Tears (2009), Law Abiding Citizen (2009), and The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone (2009). If you would like to find the filming locations of any of these movies, or if you are interested in shooting a film at the cemetery, please contact the office at 215-228-8200.
Q: How many bodies can fit into a grave?
A: This depends on the size of the grave. There are some family plots at the cemetery that can hold as many as 80 people in them. The graves that are currently for sale are intended to hold up to two full burials (coffins), and two cremations. If you would like more information about burial policies or if you are interested in purchasing a grave, please contact us at 215-228-8200.
Q: How come some of the tombstones are illegible?
A: Some of the older stones in the cemetery were made from marble, which is very porous and fragile. After more than 100 years, many of the earliest stones in the cemetery are no longer readable due to deterioration from exposure to the elements. Granite gravestones, which are much more durable, were not widely available in the U.S. until the latter half of the 19 th century.
Q: Is it okay to walk over someone’s grave?
A: It is okay to walk over graves. In fact the best way to view the cemetery is to stray from the paths which will inevitably require walking over a grave or two. The cemetery does not see this as a disrespectful act. On the contrary, one of the best ways to honor the dead is to visit them, so the closer you can get the better. We ask that you please don’t sit or lean on gravestones as they may not be as strong as you think. And if you stray from the paths, please watch out for groundhog holes.
Q: Should I hold my breath when I pass by Laurel Hill Cemetery?
A: No. That is just a superstition. Also, given how long the cemetery is, it is potentially very dangerous.
Q: Is the cemetery haunted?
A: Different people have different experiences at the cemetery. The typical belief is that hauntings happen at sites where people lived or experienced traumatic events, in which case there should be very few spirits at the cemetery. Cemetery staff, here on a day to day basis, is not aware of any malicious presence.
We partner with Free Spirit Paranormal Investigators (www.freespiritpi.com) for night-time paranormal investigation tours. For more information, contact us at 215-228-8200, or you can contact Free Spirit Paranormal Investigators directly at 267-496-5267.
Q: Are you associated with West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, PA?
A: Yes. We like to think of ourselves as “sister” cemeteries. One of our four founders, John Jay Smith, also founded West Laurel Hill Cemetery 33 years after Laurel Hill Cemetery, in 1869. We are two separate cemetery companies, with different operations and missions, however, we do share some staff, administration, and resources.