Established in 1836 as the second garden-designed cemetery in the United States, Laurel Hill is now the nation’s first National Historic Landmark cemetery. John Jay Smith, the site’s founding visionary, had planned for Laurel Hill to be a school of instruction in architecture, culture, landscape gardening, arboriculture and botany. By 1844, Smith had planted 2,400 trees on the cemetery’s initial 32-acre tract. His horticultural efforts were admired by the leading landscape gardeners of the time. In 1849, Andrew Jackson Downing wrote in The Horticulturalist, “Laurel Hill is especially rich in rare trees… it is a better arboretum than can easily be found elsewhere in the country.”
Today, Laurel Hill along with its sister cemetery West Laurel Hill, continue to serve as a horticultural retreat for visitors to enjoy. A combined collection of nearly 300 carefully selected and well-maintained species of trees and shrubs benefit the native wildlife and enhance the natural beauty of each site. This quality and diversity in plant life ensure Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill’s shared status as a certified Level II Arboretum, and leaders in sustainable landscape management.
Laurel Hill is open daily to the public with free admission. For a listing of notable plantings or to learn more about the arboretum, visit or contact the office.