Cemeteries are the perfect culmination of my fascination with history, landscapes, and architecture. Some say this interest is macabre, but I see it as a natural extension of being a genealogist. Today's cemeteries are an unfortunate reflection of our society - streamlined, mass-produced, minimalistic, and disposable. No longer do we see beautifully built mausoleums, intricately carved headstones, statues, and personal touches. All we have are flat-to-the-ground markers for a quick mow & go, often forgotten the moment the bodies are covered.
Philadelphia is fortunate to have three very well known cemeteries designed in the "rural ideal" - Laurel Hill (1836), The Woodlands (1840), and Mount Moriah (1855). Rural cemeteries, from their inception, were intended as civic institutions designed for public use. Before the widespread development of public parks, the rural cemetery provided a place for the general public to enjoy refined outdoor recreation amid art and sculpture previously available only for the wealthy.
Commonly used materials such as marble and sandstone have an unfortunate tendency to break and fade over time, faster than today's preferred granite, which gives and added layer of complexity to these monuments in the modern context - sad, forgotten, and discarded relics of the past.
Click on any of the cemetery names below to see more photographs.