Laurel Hill Cemetery Lights Up Landscape along Kelly Drive
Illumination of the monuments and trees inspires a new way of experiencing the historic site
One of the most beautiful gateways into the city officially has an exciting new dimension as of last night: the nighttime illumination of the historic monuments and natural landscape of Laurel Hill Cemetery along Kelly Drive.
The inaugural lighting was held Thursday, February 13th at the cemetery’s Receiving Vault on West Hunting Park Drive near Kelly Drive. Special guests included descendants of Laurel Hill’s illustrious “residents” as well as Janet Haas of the William Penn Foundation and Aparna Palantino, Deputy Commissioner for Capital Infrastructure and Natural Lands Management for Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation.
“We chose this date for the initial lighting as our ‘Valentine’ to the City of Philadelphia,” said Nancy Goldenberg, President and CEO of Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemeteries. “This is our way of reinforcing our connection with the city and community, while strengthening our visibility and honoring our past.”
Laurel Hill will join the procession of lighted iconic buildings and landmarks extending from City Hall down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to Boathouse Row to the Falls Bridge, sites which offer educational, cultural, recreational and civic contributions to Philadelphia residents and visitors. “We fulfill all these purposes,” Goldenberg explains. “Now we are casting a light on the beauty of our architecture and landscape and paying tribute to those who helped build our city and nation.”
The Laurel Hill lighting project – which grew from initial visioning in 2004 and the lighting of a single mausoleum – will illuminate 11 monuments and surrounding trees along Kelly Drive and Hunting Park Drive. This $600,000 first phase of a larger lighting plan for the entire cemetery property was made possible through the support of the William Penn Foundation, the McLean Contributionship, and the Laurel Hill Cemetery Company.
More than 31,000 cars and 650 bikers, rowers, and walkers pass by Laurel Hill each day. The lighting will offer visual gateways into the grounds after sunset, providing a new way of seeing and experiencing the landscape. The lighting design will also bring a heightened sense of place and safety to the site and the surrounding neighborhoods, while increasing opportunities and options on the cemetery grounds for evening programs, from walking tours to artistic performances. Laurel Hill currently offers a year-round array of educational and recreational activities, including 5K fun runs, family events, and its renowned Halloween celebrations. These programs are coordinated with the assistance of the Friends of Laurel Hill & West Laurel Hill Cemeteries, the nonprofit organization that supports the cemeteries in preserving and promoting their historic character.
The nighttime illumination was designed by The Lighting Practice, whose previous projects include the Avenue of the Arts, the Parkway’s facades and sculptures, and the Rail Park. Installation of the lighting was by Miller Bros. of Conshohocken. The fixtures at Laurel Hill utilize long-life, low-energy LED sources with precise optics that eliminate glare and lighting trespass and illuminate the cemetery monuments in a respectful manner. The lights will be turned off nightly at 1 a.m. to preserve normal day/night cycles for wildlife and provide minimal disturbance to trees and plants. The lights will be uniformly white in color but have color-changing capacity so that Laurel Hill can participate in seasonal and special civic celebrations.
“By lighting Laurel Hill, we are sharing the message that we’re more than a cemetery – that this is a place for living as much as a place of eternal rest,” Goldenberg said. “When we turn on the lights, we are saying: We’re here. Come visit. And discover what a treasure we have.”