Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Date added: October 29, 2023 Categories:
South section, view looking toward the mausoleums in section 10 (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-65)

Designed by Scottish architect John Notman in 1836, Philadelphia's Laurel Hill Cemetery constitutes the second major rural cemetery in the United States and Notman's first known commission. The project launched Notman's career as a nationally renowned architect and landscape gardener who contributed to the professionalization of both occupations. In later years, civil engineer James C. Sidney found work at Laurel Hill similarly rewarding; his later projects included some of the great public and semi-public landscapes of Pennsylvania and New York. Laurel Hill founder John Jay Smith was a third beneficiary of the venture's success. Having personally guided the cemetery's planting and promotion, he became a national figure in cemetery management and horticulture. Part of Laurel Hill's significance clearly derives from the institution's role as a professional starting point. Yet the cemetery itself exerted an influence that extended well beyond the careers of these three men.

At a time when American cities suffered from crowding, disease, and scarcity of public space, Laurel Hill held out an alternative environment. Its romantic landscape, commemorative monuments, and eclectic architecture made it a popular tourist attraction, prompting Andrew Jackson Downing to cite it as a model on which to base the large urban parks he advocated. Meanwhile, Philadelphia's elite bought lots in the cemetery and commissioned monuments from the city's best-known architects and sculptors.

In late 1835, John Jay Smith (1798-1881) took preliminary steps toward establishing a large, landscaped cemetery outside Philadelphia." Born of a Quaker family with deep roots in the Delaware Valley, Smith was an accomplished writer, editor, and horticulturalist who worked as a librarian at the city's Library Company. He claimed that his interest in providing Philadelphia with an institution then known as a "rural cemetery" stemmed from a sense of civic duty and, more directly, from an unpleasant personal experience. At the beginning of his diary he recounted:

"The City of Philadelphia has been increasing so rapidly of late years that the living population has multiplied beyond the means of accommodation for the dead, a circumstance which has forcibly impressed my mind, and in connection with the fact that on recently visiting Friends grave yard in [sic] Cherry Street I found it impossible to designate the resting place of a darling daughter, determined me to endeavor to procure for the citizens a suitable, neat and orderly location for a rural cemetery, where each individual or family might have a lot in fee simple to bury their dead."

Like other large American cities of Smith's day, Philadelphia was experiencing the effects of the Industrial Revolution. Between 1800 and 1830, the city's population grew from 67,811 to 161,410. New factories, shops, and houses sprang up, and soon encroached on all "empty" lots, including churchyards and burial grounds. The dead, whose numbers rose with the population, now occupied valuable land that lay "in offensive contiguity to the dwellings of the living." Aware of the health risks posed by this predicament, City Councils moved in 1812 to ban all burial in Philadelphia's public squares. Though well intended, the decision intensified crowding in graveyards and left few burial alternatives for those unaffiliated with a church. Furthermore, neither churches, nor any other institution provided guarantees against the disturbance of remains. As one nineteenth-century historian put it "there was no property in a grave."

By the mid-1820s, Philadelphians responded to this crisis by forming various private burial associations. The earliest was the Mutual Burying-Ground Society which purchased ground on Washington Avenue and sold inexpensive lots there. Eager to capitalize on a similar scheme, James Ronaldson laid out the more lavish Philadelphia Cemetery at Ninth and Shippen Streets. Initially, this venture remained something of an oddity, four other cemeteries set up around the same time conformed essentially to the Mutual or "associate" model.

John Jay Smith would have been familiar with these new institutions, but he envisioned something different. The cemetery he hoped to establish was a garden, accessible to urbanites but thoroughly un-urban in location, design, and atmosphere. Toward this end, he contacted former Philadelphia Mayor Benjamin W. Richards who, in turn, mentioned Smith's plan to "several public spirited citizens." Smith then arranged a meeting with druggist Frederick Brown, merchant Nathan Dunn, architect William Strickland, lawyer Thomas I. Wharton and Richards to consider launching the cemetery venture. They convened on November 14th, 1835, and, at Strickland's suggestion, were joined by marble mason John Struthers. Wharton soon indicated he wanted no part in the project and Struthers remained a bystander, but Smith and the others pressed forward with cemetery plans.

After discussing the question of location, the committee moved to acquire William Hamilton's estate, The Woodlands, located in what is now West Philadelphia. Smith later reported that this site was unavailable and the search resumed. Another tract near Girard College proved "too near the city" and "too level for picturesque effect." Finally, in February, 1836, a satisfactory alternative appeared. Nathan Dunn paid $15,200 for the Joseph Sims estate, Laurel Hill, which lay about four miles north of Philadelphia. In order to ensure Dunn's reimbursement and proper preparation of the grounds, the group established the Laurel Hill Cemetery Company and decided to seek an Act of Incorporation from the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The institution that Smith and his colleagues founded in 1836 was the first of its kind in Philadelphia and among the first in the nation. Much of its novelty lay in the combination of three elements: a location well outside the city, a site chosen for its picturesque potential, and an administration that bore no religious affiliation. Yet local, national, and international precedents existed for each of these elements in varying degrees.

During the latter half of the eighteenth century, churchyards and municipal graveyards became the target of reform efforts in Europe and America. Scientists suggested the foul-smelling "miasma" that emanated from decaying human matter was unhealthy, and the common practices of collective burial and reinterment seemed increasingly distasteful to many. When yellow fever plagued New Haven in the 1790s, public attention began to focus on the city's over-filled public burial ground. A group of wealthy citizens rallied around statesman James Hillhouse to create an alternative: the New Haven Burying Ground. Founded in 1796, this institution operated as a private, non-sectarian corporation. It offered sepulchral security, lay far enough from town to avoid being perceived as a health risk and occupied a placid, orderly site adorned with poplar and willow trees.

The New Haven Burying Ground was laid out on a grid, and its horticultural embellishments were minor. Only indirectly did the design acknowledge the principles of English picturesque landscape gardening that had been shaping private European and American estates throughout much of the century. Not until 1804 did Paris' Pere Lachaise Cemetery take a full stride in this direction. Set off from the city, the new cemetery came as a gratifying response to decades of French pleas for extramural burial. And now, for the first time, the Arcadian ideal thoroughly shaped the design of a graveyard. Architect Alexandre-Theodore Brogniart transformed the grounds of a hilltop estate into a semi-wooded "park" with dramatic views of Paris. A curving drive unified the formal and informal components of the design, guiding visitors past diminutive classical monuments and through a sequence of carefully constructed vistas.

Over the next three decades, Pere Lachaise became an international tourist attraction, prompting cities outside France to consider it a model. The entrenched tradition of churchyard burial initially checked the spread of similar developments in America and Great Britain. But recurring epidemics and other problems associated with inner-city burial broke down this resistance. Advocates of extramural cemeteries organized in the two countries during the 1820s and eventually turned their attention to Pere Lachaise. In 1831, London's Kensal Green and Boston's Mount Auburn cemeteries both took their cue from Brogniart's creation.

Americans coined the term "rural cemetery" to describe the type of development Mount Auburn inaugurated in their country. Advanced by Jacob Bigelow and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Mount Auburn joined the Romantic landscaping of Pere Lachaise to an administrative structure like the New Haven Burying Grounds. The cemetery occupied a wooded lot along the Charles River, several miles from Boston, and its layout represented an attempt to augment natural beauty with art and science. Roads and paths fitted the site's varied topography, a design solution that was at once economical, accessible and picturesque. Monuments, plantings and the overall plan were to serve as lessons in art, history, botany and taste. Members of the Horticultural Society even arranged for the inclusion of "experimental gardens." While Mount Auburn was a metropolitan institution, it provided a "soothing" alternative to the city. Contagion, commerce, and the regimentation of the urban grid lay well outside its borders.

Boston's new cemetery generated great national interest, and, in a broad sense, served as Smith's inspiration for Laurel Hill. A gentleman horticulturalist, he fit the profile of Mount Auburn's founders, and his ideas about the roles of art and nature in landscape design essentially matched theirs. Yet Laurel Hill was also very much a product of its place. As a child, Smith had frequently visited gardens on estates such as William Hamilton's Woodlands and Henry Pratt's Lemon Hill. Here, and in the famous garden of John Bartram, Smith acquired "that love of trees and flowers which has afforded me so much pleasure." This admiration for the estates where Philadelphia's horticultural and landscape gardening traditions had matured underlay Smith's initial preference for the Woodlands site and later choice of the Sims tract. Unlike Mount Auburn, Laurel Hill was a private garden put to semi-public use.

The application of estate gardening principles to a reform-minded institution was also a step in keeping with Smith's Philadelphia Quaker background. During the early nineteenth century, the Society of Friends had established an "Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Reason" about five miles north of the city. Integral to the asylum's design were a picturesque botanical garden and working farm, intended to have a therapeutic effect on the patients. Similar ideals led to the selection of "rural" sites for Philadelphia's penitentiary, almshouse, and charitable hospitals in the following decades. By helping guide Laurel Hill's founders to Sims estate, Smith placed the cemetery in this line.

Laurel Hill's founders again departed significantly from Mount Auburn's precedent in selecting a professionally trained architect to lay out the cemetery grounds. The two people generally credited with establishing the basics of Mount Auburn's design are Jacob Bigelow and Henry A. S. Dearborn. Like Smith, both were well-educated men with broad-ranging interests. Their knowledge of horticulture was thorough, but their forays into architecture and landscape design were essentially gentlemanly. Rather than relying on their own artistic skills, Laurel Hill's managers held a competition for the cemetery's design. Well-known architects William Strickland and Thomas U. Walter both submitted entries, but the prize went instead to John Notman. Understandably, the choice prompted Strickland's withdrawal from the company.

Born and trained in Scotland, Notman (1810-65) had only recently made Philadelphia his home. The Laurel Hill commission may well have been his first in America, and it would lead to many more. When faced with an early professional opportunity, Notman turned to a familiar British example. This was Henry E. Kendall's proposed scheme for Kensal Green Cemetery, outside London. The Scotsman interpreted Kendall's work broadly, adapting it to the Sims estate via the same "gardenesque" principles that had shaped the model. The result was a romantic combination of formalism and naturalism that would have satisfied John Claudius Loudon, English apostle of the gardenesque. To this plan, Notman added a gatehouse, chapel, and superintendent's cottage. The direct origins of these designs remain unclear. An illustration of London's Chelsea Physic Garden in Philip Miller's Gardeners Dictionary (1735) is a likely source for the gatehouse. The chapel evidently owed much to Kendall's proposal.

Over the next five years, Notman's scheme became a reality. Philip M. Price performed the surveying, John Jay Smith personally undertook the planting, and it is fair to state that both men's design roles have been underestimated. Yet Notman's central place in the process is unquestionable. At a time when the concept and profession of landscape architecture lay years in the future, he had begun to advance both causes at Laurel Hill.

The Laurel Hill Cemetery Company was not immediately profitable. Even after the financial panic of 1836-37 had passed, public acceptance of a non-sectarian cemetery located far from the city was somewhat slow. On the other hand, urban burial conditions were not improving, and soon even the churches themselves were searching for new places to inter their deceased. In 1840, Saint John's Evangelical Lutheran Church bought a large plot in Laurel Hill, and other religious groups followed suit over the next fifteen years.

Smith himself did much to promote the cemetery. Visiting the picturesque site daily, "he attempted to create an arboretum-like effect by including examples of all the trees and shrubs that would flourish in the middle Atlantic states." His keen interest in the Delaware Valley's contribution to national history also served his business interests. Aware that shrines to local historical figures possessed great advertising value, Smith sought and in time, Smith's diplomacy or the wishes of descendants resulted in the reinterment of many other local worthies. Their graves, and those of the young, the wealthy, and the tragically deceased, were often marked by fine works of architecture and sculpture commissioned by the likes of Notman, Water, Strickland, and Struthers. James Thom's statues of Old Mortality and His Pony added further to the site's sculpture-gallery effect.

By the mid-1840s, Laurel Hill was a solid success. Not only were Smith and his colleagues making money, but they had also gone far toward establishing "a local history and biography" and "a school of instruction in architecture, sculpture, landscape-gardening, arboriculture, [and] botany." Tourists arrived in droves. As Andrew Jackson Downing reported to The Horticulturalists' readers, "nearly 30,000 persons...entered the gates between April and December, 1848." Referring to the Harleigh estate, he also noted, "Twenty acres of new ground have just been added to this cemetery. It is a better arboretum than can easily be found elsewhere in the country."

The creation of South Laurel Hill in 1849 indicated that the cemetery was attracting the dead as well as the living. English civil engineer James C. Sidney (ca.1819-81) devised the new site's plan. An adept surveyor, he had begun working for Smith as a mapmaker at the Library Company during the mid-1840s. More recently, the same vocation had brought him into the employ of Smith's son Robert at the Smith and Wistar publishing firm. After designing South Laurel Hill, Sidney stayed on as surveyor, perfecting his scheme with the help of architect James P. W. Neff. The end result of their efforts was a gently curving plan, more purely picturesque than Notman's. A gate conceived by John McArthur, Jr. lent a certain public dignity to the place long before the architect gained fame for designing Philadelphia City Hall.

Central Laurel Hill filled out the cemetery company's holdings in 1861. For both aesthetic and financial reasons, the tract received a more austere treatment than its predecessors. While the authorship of the design remains unclear, records show that Griffith M. Hopkins executed the surveying. Like Sidney, he had worked in Robert Smith's "small army of survey-inclined civil engineers, many of whom were stimulated by the experience to continue this line of work on their own." In a matter of years, the lots he laid out provided Philadelphia's Gilded Age rich with an unparalleled opportunity for monumental display.

Well before Laurel Hill's popularity reached its peak, the venture had joined Mount Auburn's ranks in launching a national movement. Both sites were the subjects of speeches, essays, articles, and general patriotic self-congratulation at having "surpassed" Europe in one category of cultural endeavor. Not wanting to be outdone, New Yorkers established Green-wood Cemetery in 1838. In so doing, they "completed the grand triumvirate of America's first and most influential rural cemeteries." Over the next thirty years, dozens of cities and towns followed the lead that Boston, Philadelphia and New York had set.

When hoards of visitors descended on these sites of melancholy repose, their obtrusive presence also gave rise to another movement. With Laurel Hill in mind, Downing asked pointedly:

"If 30,000 persons visit a cemetery in a single season, would not a large public garden be equally a matter of curious investigation? Would not such gardens educate the public taste more rapidly than anything else? And would not the progress of horticulture, as a science and an art be equally benefitted by such establishments?"

This sort of rhetoric did much to interest Americans in creating great naturalistic landscapes within their cities. The drive gained momentum during the 1850s, and culminated in such municipal triumphs as New York's Central Park and Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

The well-known connection between rural cemeteries and urban parks crystallized with particular clarity at Laurel Hill. On one hand, Downing and his followers openly conscripted the institution for use in their cause. On the other hand, the careers of Notman, Smith, and Sidney were significant in the development of both landscape types.

After Notman's formal association with Laurel Hill ended, he joined Downing in preparing a design for Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetery (1845). Ultimately, Spring Grove's directors rejected the proposal, maintaining that it responded inadequately to the topography. Three years later, Notman followed up with a successful plan for Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. This design was fully realized, and became a "southern shrine" after the Civil War. In the late 1850s, Notman conceived the Italianate gate of Mount Vernon Cemetery, across the street from Laurel Hill. By that time, he had also drawn up plans for Richmond's Capitol Square. These were carried out by the early 1860s, completing one of the nation's early public parks.

Ever the businessman, Smith used the credibility in aesthetic matters that he gained at Laurel Hill to turn out several design-related publications. Two were pattern books on architecture and ornament, co-authored by Thomas U. Walter. The third, and most relevant here, was his Designs for Monuments and Mural Tablets...(1846). Based partly on Loudon, this treatise contained a "Preliminary Essay on the Laying Out, Planting and Managing of Cemeteries" that constitutes a rare American compendium on the subject. Nor did Smith's authority on rural cemeteries remain academic. He went on to establish Laurel Hill's successor, West Laurel Hill (1869), on the other side of Schuylkill, and served as an advisor to the founders of New York's Green-Wood and Woodlawn cemeteries. Meanwhile, his horticultural pursuits had brought him into frequent contact with Downing. The two remained friends until Downing's death, and Smith succeed him as editor of The Horticulturalist two years later (1854). In this role, he played an avid behind-the-scenes part in fund-raising for Fairmount Park - an activity he later downplayed in his autobiography.

James C. Sidney's career intersects with Smith's in several suggestive places. After working for Smith at the Library Company, the Englishman took on an amazingly diverse array of projects. Cartography, architecture, landscape design, and engineering all came within his scope. South Laurel Hill was his first rural cemetery commission, but he received another almost immediately in Easton, Pennsylvania. This was followed by successful schemes for Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York (1850), Oaklands Cemetery in West Chester, Pennsylvania (w/ Neff, 1853), Woodlands Cemetery in Cambridge, New York (1857), and the famous Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx (1863). Underscoring the close association between these works and public space, Sidney won the honor of designing Philadelphia's Fairmount Park in 1859.

Cemetery Description

Laurel Hill Cemetery occupies a rolling, 74-acre tract in northwestern Philadelphia, near the city's East Falls neighborhood. The site overlooks the Schuylkill River and rises as much as 120 feet above the water, affording panoramic views of the opposite bank. Originally chosen for its picturesque effect, this location now helps buffer the cemetery from its noisy western boundary, Kelly Drive. Laurel Hill grew to its present size through the combination of four land parcels between 1836 and 1861. Because the design treatment, topography and prior use of these parcels differed, each phase of development remains clearly legible on the landscape. A system of winding roads and paths provides access to the cemetery's 51 sections, guiding visitors past hundreds of mausoleums and monuments. These vary greatly in size and style, displaying the new republic's interest in Roman and Egyptian iconography, the Victorian passion for opulence and eclecticism, and the early twentieth century's taste for L'Art Nouveau and more restrained revivalism. On Ridge Avenue near Clearfield Street, a Roman Doric gate house (1836), marks the cemetery's main entrance and gives passersby a glimpse of the sculpture group Old Mortality (1836). Locked iron gates on sandstone piers (1849) are located at the site's southeastern corner and once served as a secondary entrance. Near the bridge (1864) that joins Laurel Hill's central and southern sectors stands a Doric receiving tomb built of terra cotta (1913). The only structure postdating the receiving tomb is a mid-twentieth-century garage situated near the center of the cemetery's eastern edge.

The first piece of land acquired by Laurel Hill's founders (1836) comprised 32 acres lying on either side of Ridge Avenue. While the 12-acre lot east of Ridge was eventually sold off, the 20 acres to the west became the original Laurel Hill Cemetery, now known as North Laurel Hill. Resting on a massive outcropping of granitized schist, this tract forms a plateau some 100 feet above the Schuylkill. Its "deep, dry and well-drained" soil make it eminently suitable for burial and planting.

The plan of North Laurel Hill is essentially that devised for the site by architect John Notman and laid out by surveyor Philip M. Price between 1836 and 1840. Loosely based on Henry E. Kendall's scheme for Kensal Green Cemetery near London, the design is organized around a main drive that assumes the shape of an uneven oval. The oval's orientation allows much of the drive to parallel the underlying ridge, reducing the amount of initial grading required. Sinuous gravel footpaths travel inward from the drive, forming a complex geometrical pattern at their intersection. Early plans suggest that this node, identified as the "Shrubbery," was supposed to remain decorative in function and free from burial. However, the cemetery's managers paid little heed to this stipulation and had sold 45 burial lots in the section by 1839. A hallmark of "gardenesque" landscape treatment, the Shrubbery constitutes the Notman plan's most formal element. Elsewhere the architect tended to avoid strict geometry, laying down a network of winding paths most fully developed near the northeast corner of the site.

Three scales of construction underlie the cemetery's circulation system. The main drive varies from 14 to 16 feet in width, major paths range from 4 to 6 feet, and secondary paths maintain a 3-foot standard. Initially paved with gravel, the drive is now asphalted in order to facilitate automobile travel. The road's early retaining walls have also been supplemented by newer ones in several places. A few paths are covered in concrete and others are overgrown with grass, yet their contours remain clear and their original materials are still in place.

Prior to its use as a cemetery, the North Laurel Hill tract had been the country seat of Joseph Sims. Although Sims' mansion and outbuildings vanished within ten years of the cemetery's establishment, features related to the site's previous use indelibly shaped Notman's plan. The western segment of the main drive passes around an ovoid lot, known as T Circle, that once served as the estate's carriage turn-around. North of the cemetery's entrance, a straight path runs almost due east, dividing Sections A, B, and N from C and O. This marks the course of a road that led from Sims' house and stables to Ridge Avenue. Ironically, the demolition of the estate helped complete the cemetery plan: at least one of the terraces that make up the "theater" in Section S consists of ashlar blocks salvaged from the rubble of the mansion. Notman's 1840-41 plan shows that he envisioned more terraces for the site than were built. His influence over the cemetery's design ended around this time, and the gridded areas that form Sections O and G are not his work.

The survey and sale of lots followed an uneven pattern, moving gradually outward from the cemetery's core. Sections A - C and E - I were receiving interments by the end of 1836; L and D joined the list the following year. In 1840 Saint John's Lutheran Evangelical Church acquired the new Section O, laid out by Philip M. Price under Smith's direction. Lots in sections M, R, S and T Circle were available by 1853, and the cemetery was becoming more crowded. In the mid-1880s, the managers opened up prime new burial space by demolishing a chapel and superintendent's cottage that Notman had placed near the Sims estate's outbuildings. After grading and gridding, this area became Chapel Section. River Section, where lot sales had occurred occasionally from an early date, was bolstered by the present retaining wall in 1895.

The imposing Roman Doric gatehouse, through which all visitors now enter, is Notman's primary architectural contribution to Laurel Hill. Erected in 1836, the two-story building faces Ridge Avenue south of Clearfield Street and measures 68 feet (N-S) by 44.5 feet (E-W) in plan. A granite block foundation supports stone walls that have been stuccoed and scored to imitate ashlar. Octastyle porticoes adorn the front and rear facades and are connected via a barrel-vaulted passageway. All columns are made of stuccoed wood; those on the front are fluted while others are plain; they support a full Doric entablature that masks a low hip roof.

The structure roughly resembles a Roman triumphal arch and provided Notman with a device for unifying two separate living quarters: a Gardener's Lodge and a Porter's Lodge. The passageway that divides these spaces is covered by a coffered vault resting on hexastyle colonnades. Originally, the colonnades screened the passageway from flanking, elevated walkways. One of these remains intact, but the other was glassed in during a 1910s remodeling that turned the north lodge into an office. Two-story frame additions, built in the same era, adjoin the north and south ends of the gatehouse. Designed to provide new working and living space for the superintendent, these wings partially incorporate original, colonnaded walls that visually extend the facade. Other changes appear in the configuration of certain doors and windows. The most obvious incongruities are the bay windows added to the front and rear of the north lodge during its office conversion. This switch in function also deprived the north lodge of its original interior. The south lodge, however, has been altered less drastically. Now rented as an apartment, it retains moldings and other features that could aid in the restoration of its northern counterpart.

Visitors passing through the entrance arch are immediately greeted by Notman's stuccoed, turreted enclosure housing the statues of Old Mortality and His Pony. The group consists of three sandstone figures carved in the mid 1830s by Scottish sculptor James Thom. Seated on a sarcophagus at the center of the composition is Thom's representation of Old Mortality, an itinerant peasant who re-cuts the names of the dead on their tombstones in the works of Sir Walter Scott. A statue of Scott himself gazes at the peasant, while Old Mortality's pony stands in the background. In placing this piece on prominent display, John Jay Smith and other cemetery managers intended to publicly equate Old Mortality's mission with their own: "as Old Mortality loved to repair defaced tombstones, so the originators of the plan of the Cemetery hope it may be the study of their successors to keep the place in perpetual repair, and to transmit it undefaced to a distant date." To the sculptures' right stands a plaster bust of the artist, placed there by Smith about 1872.

Significant monuments appear in almost all sections of North Laurel Hill, and their designs tend to follow one of several themes. Like some other pioneers of the rural cemetery movement, Smith took special interest in the way burial places functioned as "historical records." He was also aware of the illustrious dead's great advertising value and, in 1838, arranged for the reinternment of Continental Congress Secretary Charles Thomson's remains at Laurel Hill.

Cemetery managers then sponsored the construction of a large granite obelisk over Thomson's grave (River Section). Employed earlier at Beacon Hill and planned for the Washington Monument, the obelisk was already an established form for commemorating national heroes. Upon completion, Thomson's monument was probably the biggest of its kind at Laurel Hill, but obelisks of all sizes dotted the cemetery over the next few years.

Roman forms provided another way to honor the New Republic's local heros. Commodore Isaac Hull received a sarcophagus like that of Scipio, surmounted by an eagle (ca. 1843). The work of William Strickland and John Struthers, this stands in Section G, lot 241. Other monuments employing Roman motifs are those of General Hugh Mercer and William Young Birch, both designed by J. M. Hamilton (1840, Sec. G, #121; ca. 1837, Sec. I, #139-44). Before 1860, architects Strickland, Notman, Hamilton, and Thomas U. Walter along with masons John and William Struthers, Edwin Greble, and Thomas Hargrave received many important funerary commissions at Laurel Hill.

The cemetery's most interesting and elaborate monuments are often biographical in design. Some highlight an individual's profession, achievements, or death pictorially. The sarcophagus of industrialist Thomas Sparks shows his shot tower in low relief, while the tomb of Joseph Lewis depicts the Philadelphia Waterworks he helped establish (ca. 1855, Sec. G, #219; Notman and J. Struthers, 1838, Sec. H, #6-9, 18). Following her death in Egypt, Mary Cooke was interred beneath a sarcophagus like Hull's, adorned with an illustration of the pyramids at Giza (Messrs. Struthers, ca. 1842, Sec. G, #140, 142).

Other monuments relate personal history in a less literal manner, employing allegory and metaphor. Naval and military motifs appear frequently on the tombs of those who served in the armed forces. The monument commemorating Major Levi Twiggs and his son, Lieutenant John Twiggs, is an unusually sculptural variation on this theme (Richard Graff, 1847, Sec. C, #20). Both men were casualties of the Mexican War. They are buried beneath a brownstone monument that incorporates an anchor, fasces, and a rock pile (or cairn).' The granite mass marking Robert Stewart's grave is equally anecdotal (ca. 1858, Sec. G, #171). Resembling an urn shattered on a sharp rock, the design refers to Stewart's violent death, supposedly at the hands of his servant. Broken columns, a more generic symbol of "life cut short," appear throughout the grounds.

Laurel Hill and other rural cemeteries achieved success, in part, through guaranteeing that family members could be buried together. Material expressions of family unity were an important part of Victorian culture, and burial lots provided the ideal venue. An especially good example of the phenomenon is the Fotterall family lot, where two varieties of small, Gothic Revival markers cluster around a large monument of the same style (ca. 1840-60, Sec. F, #41-42, 44, 57-59). No other family lot achieved this degree of order in its layout, but many once conveyed the idea of unity through copings and iron perimeter fences. The latter have usually disappeared, falling victim to salvage drives or the need to facilitate mowing. Those that survive surround the Bohlen, Lentz, Paul, and Wharton lots, among others (Sec. F, 61-64; Sec. I, #182; Sec. I, #162; Sec. G, #157).

Finally, numerous monuments and mausoleums vividly reflect the architectural styles of their day. Borrowing the form he applied to banks and churches, William Strickland designed a diminutive Greek temple for Alfred Miller (w/ Messrs. Struthers, 1840, Sec. A, #68-69, 76-77). Notman employed the same style for the Robinson mausoleum, and demonstrated his proficiency in the Gothic mode with the sarcophagus of John and Margaret Evans (ca. 1838, Sec. P, #1; 1849, Sec. A, #1-4). Impressive displays of the Egyptian Revival include the Dolan, Lenning and Ball mausoleums, the latter conceived by Thomas U. Walter (Sec. G, #116.5; Sec. P, #5; ca. 1841, Sec. G, #110-112). Moorish designs, sometimes favored by non-Christians, are less well represented in North Laurel Hill than in some other parts of the cemetery. An exception to the rule is the Voohees mausoleum (ca. 1863, Sec. S, #71). North Laurel Hill's finest high-style works of the 20th century are the Beaux-Arts Henry Charles Lea monument and the Art-Nouveau Walling mausoleum (sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder with architects Zantziger and Borie, ca. 1909, Sec. S, #36, 49; monument dealer John Gessler's Sons, 1918, Sec. S, #102).

After a decade of operation, Laurel Hill was a proven success. Lots were selling quickly, and the cemetery's founders perceived the need to secure additional burial space before the original tract was exhausted. They were apparently unable to acquire adjacent land, and turned instead to Harleigh, the former estate of jurist William Rawle. This property was located .2 miles south of the cemetery, between Nicetown Lane (now Hunting Park Avenue), and the extended line of Huntingdon Avenue. The 27-acre swath descended roughly 120 feet from southeast to northwest, forming steep terrain conducive to the display of monuments. Since 1849, this site has served as Laurel Hill's southern extension.

The layout of South Laurel Hill is softer and simpler than North Laurel Hill, its broadly curving lines lacking the formal focus of Notman's design. Civil engineer James C. Sidney may initially have conceived the plan as a series of concentric crescents attached to a grid - a clear, if somewhat crude, acknowledgment of the site's topography. Sidney refined the scheme between 1849 and 1854, collaborating with architect James P. W. Neff throughout most of the period. In final form, their design consists of curving and rectilinear grids joined by an upper and a lower drive. The architect and engineer essentially maintained Notman's scales of circulation. Perhaps they intended the lower drive to traverse the tract's western half, but the road remains a large loop with no southern extension.

Early lot sales were concentrated on the property's southeastern half, claiming ground in Sections 1-4 and 7 by 1850. Soon, an area along the cemetery's eastern border grew into an unofficial church quarter. Although the notion of non-sectarian burial had once met with resistance from religious leaders, the Society of Friends showed this era was past by acquiring Section 4. In accordance with Quaker practice, burial here was to involve little ceremony and no markers. Laurel Hill's managers lifted these restrictions in 1887, but the section's spartan appearance still bespeaks its past. Fifth Baptist Church bought up most of Section 6 starting in 1852 and the First Dutch Reformed Church took on Section 13 two years later. Meanwhile, Sections 5 and 8-11 came into use, followed by 14-18 between 1854 and 1861. At the outset, Section 1 had been "appropriated for family vaults." Wanting control over even more space, the Coates family formed a burial association and purchased large lots in Section 9. For those at the other end of the economic scale, Section 15 was reserved for "single interments."

South Laurel Hill's size and discontinuity with the North Laurel Hill led Sidney and Neff to include living accommodations for a second superintendent at the center of their scheme (Sections 1 and 10). Parts of this complex and the surrounding road system may have been vestiges of the Harleigh estate. However, the area was cleared for burial use during the 1870s and retains few above-ground clues to its earlier appearance; pre-1861 plans supply most of the evidence. These plans also show three entrances to the cemetery grounds. One, facing Hunting Park Avenue near Ridge, is still marked on the landscape by a small iron gate. This has gone unused since at least 1947, when the City depressed the avenue. Another opening, on Ridge Avenue, terminated a drive leading to the superintendent's house, and was blocked by about 1870. The third, and main, entrance survives further south on Ridge, its location announced by architect John McArthur, Jr.'s substantial gateposts.

McArthur's 1849 design uses four sandstone hanging posts to support vehicular and pedestrian gates. All posts are capped by cornice blocks, and the larger, inner piers are also adorned with urns. Ironmaster Robert Wood supplied the gates that swung from these solid moorings. Today, the inner gates remain, but the flanking pedestrian gates have been replaced with iron fences. A small, porticoed gatehouse, located south of the entrance in early views, has also disappeared.

The one building presently standing in South Laurel Hill is a receiving tomb built by Conkling Armstrong Terra Cotta Company in 1913. Lying west of the road to Central Laurel Hill, this concrete and terra cotta structure takes the form of a hexastyle Doric temple with a hip roof. Its windowless walls surround a series of ventilated crypts designed to store bodies on a temporary or permanent basis. A central entry provides access to these crypts, and is flanked by gates to four separate mausoleums intended for temporary use only.

Because of its later date, South Laurel Hill lacks some of the monument types found in the North sector. Republican iconography is less apparent, and biographical bas-relief is absent. Yet several designers who had received monument commissions during the cemetery's opening years returned after 1849 to decorate Sidney and Neff's landscape. Sarah A. Harrison's tomb is the work of John Notman himself (w/ sculptor J. Maples, ca. 1850, Sec. 7, #11-16). It features a small Gothic arcade surrounding a sculpture of a sleeping lamb. Such symbols of innocence, piety, and premature death were staples of 19th century funerary design. The same themes converge in Henry D. Saunders' marble sculpture of "a woman clasping two babes in her arms" (ca. 1857, Sec. 7, #375). This monument assumed special meaning for Victorian visitors, who knew that it marked the grave of Saunders' drowned wife and children.

The tomb of William J. Mullen achieved even greater renown in its day (ca. 1876-82, Sec. 15, generations should remember his efforts on behalf of prisoners and the poor. Following Mullen's instructions, local sculptor E. Kornbau created an architectural setting based on Philadelphia's Moyamensing prison. Around this device, the artist arrayed statues of his patron, a freed prisoner and an angel that, along with other symbols, creates an allegory of Mullen's beneficence and anticipated salvation. A later and humbler use of Christian iconography is the rustic monument of Reverend Walter Munford (ca. 1910, Sec. 16, #68). Here a pair of stone tree trunks merge to support an open bible.

Architecturally distinguished mausoleums abound in South Laurel Hill. Section 10's steep western exposure and similar parts of Section 9 were venues for dense construction during the mid 19th century. The result is a series of mausoleum rows like those in Sections G, P, and S in the older part of the cemetery. H. N. Burrough's brownstone tomb is an able essay in Gothic Revivalism, the Baugh and Bennet mausoleums adopt Egyptian forms, and the Stockley mausoleum provides a show of Victorian eclecticism (Sec. 10, #41; Sec. 9, #145; Sec. 10, #87.5; Sec. 10, #132). The Classical structure housing the remains of G. W. South's is unique in its cast iron construction but badly in need of repair (Sec. 10, #46).

A few years after South Laurel Hill's founding, the State Assembly authorized the cemetery company to expand its holdings between the lines of Huntingdon and Allegheny Avenues. The act seems to have conferred some retroactive legitimacy on the Harleigh purchase. It also laid way for the next addition to Laurel Hill: the Stoever tract. In 1855, cemetery managers secured just over 10 acres of land from Frederick Stoever, extending the original 1836 purchase north to the tracks of the Reading Railroad. The new site's topography differed little from that of North Laurel Hill, but descended less dramatically to the Schuylkill.

Unlike South Laurel Hill, Stoever's land was too small to require a new plan or superintendent. Cemetery managers treated the property as an adjunct to North, elongating the drive that borders Section G and terminating it in a cul-de-sac. The rest of the site was gridded into lots. Those in sections flanking the drive (W and X) started selling in the first year, but Section Y was not ready until 1860. Section Z opened for burial seven years later. Around the turn of the century, the path running due north from the cul-de-sac led to a railroad station. In other respects, the railroad's presence does not seem to have factored in the design of the cemetery.

Monuments in the 1855 addition tend to be more modest than those in other parts of Laurel Hill. This is due, in part, to the tract's fairly even terrain, which provided few opportunities for picturesque siting. As in South Laurel Hill, the works of the earliest generation of architects and sculptors are scarce. John Notman's monument for Captain Steven Lavalett stands in Stoever because it was moved there (ca. 1845, Sec W, #122, 124). The design features a marble block adorned with naval motifs and surmounted by and urn. Employing marble bas-relief, the Yellow Fever Monument also recalls an older commemorative style (1859, Sec. W, #200). A Doric column rests on a paneled block with images and text honoring "Doctors, Druggist and Nurses" who died fighting an epidemic in Virginia.

The most notable statue in Stoever is the seated bronze figure of William E. Cresson, who helped found the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1869, Sec. W. #284). Sculptor Joseph A. Bailly captured Cresson's features with great accuracy, prompting a 20th-century authority to label the work "extremely advanced" for its day. An exception to the previously mentioned rule of modesty is the large Eastlake monument that presides over the Rotan family lot (Sec. W, (ca. 1873, Sec. W, #262, 309, 310) and the Renaissance Revival mausoleum of publishing magnate Louis Godey (ca. 1878, WXYZ Oval, #3).

After Frederick Stoever's land came within the bounds of Laurel Hill, one major gap remained in the cemetery company's holdings. Between North and South Laurel Hill lay Fairy Hill, the 21-acre estate of George Pepper. Pepper's death gave cemetery managers a chance to gain control of the property, and in 1861 the crucial "connecting link" became Central Laurel Hill.

John Jay Smith expressed some initial anxiety about the rugged state of the site. In an address to his fellow managers he observed, "This new plot is mostly overwooded and will require judgement and attention to bring it to public success. It is believed that this can be done economically by the aid of not more than two additional regular hands, the usual enclosures, surveys, walks and some little judicious planting in the meadows, etc." Whether or not a landscape architect was ever hired to prepare the property for its new use remains unclear. However, Smith's repeated emphasis on the need to economize while laying out the grounds suggests that Griffith M. Hopkins may have played a design role in his capacity as Central Laurel Hill's surveyor.

Whatever its expense, Central Laurel Hill dates from an era in which cemetery designers were gradually retreating from the picturesque. More than Notman's or Sidney's work, the 1860s scheme is axial. The site's north-south ridge supplies this axis and is clearly marked by three equidistant paths punctuated by rond-ponts. Other paths cross the ridge at right angles, forming a grid that is encircled by the upper drive's meandering loop. To the east, two lower drives that were intended to form an X have long functioned as a V. On one hand, the length of road between Sections Q and Valley View has never been fully developed. On the other hand, the road north of Valley View has changed uses. Once part of a secondary connection between North and South Laurel Hill, it has served as a path at least since the depression of Hunting Park Avenue (1947). At the southern end of this road-turned-path is a small gate that corresponds with one already mentioned in South Laurel Hill. Further west along the avenue is an iron vehicular gate on stone posts. It was built by contractor William McCloy in 1898 according to a simple, Classical design, and has changed little.

The ease with which cars now navigate Laurel Hill belies the difficulty once entailed in unifying the cemetery's circulation system. In North Laurel Hill, a path bordering Section M was widened into the present road. The eastern segment of Central Laurel Hill's main loop continued this route, but the valley through which Nicetown Lane (Hunting Park Avenue) traveled was a formidable obstacle to further passage. Here the managers decided to build a bridge, awarding the contract to the Dolan and Shields construction firm. Work began in 1864 and continued the following year. At long last, the stone bridge linking Central and South Laurel Hill reached completion. Its three spans were reduced to two by 1903, and a nearby superintendent's cottage vanished even earlier. As in other parts of the cemetery, Central Laurel Hill's gravel roads have generally been paved.

The terms through which cemetery managers had obtained the Stoever tract delayed lot sales in Central Laurel Hill until 1865. In that year, Sections J, K, Q, and T yielded ground for interment. More surveying allowed sales to proceed in U, V, and Bridge Sections by 1885. Valley View is a much later creation, begun around World War II. The area it occupies has long been associated with the cemetery's service functions and these have obstructed or discouraged burial. The present garage and sheds stand where several generations of greenhouses once stood.

In few places is the material splendor of the Gilded Age better represented than at Central Laurel Hill. By the time George Pepper's estate was ready for funerary use, many of the best lots in other parts of the cemetery had been claimed. Wealthy Philadelphians of the post-Civil-War era took the new opportunity to be buried together. In some cases they chose monuments that combined or exaggerated earlier types. The Knight monument, for instance, consists of three broken shafts instead of one (Sec. K, #61). Going several steps further, the massive, angel-capped columns of Clothier and Kirkpatrick dominate their surroundings with the help of high bases (Sec. T, #233-36; Sec. T #304-07). Giant obelisks abound as well, their construction spurred by renewed national attention to the Washington Monument during the 1870s.

Joseph A. Bailly's seated statue of W. F. Hughes is, perhaps, the only literal representation of a deceased person in Central Laurel Hill(Sec. K, #47, 49). In other cases, Bailly honors General Francis E. Patterson with a female nude clasping a funerary urn, and J. Lacmer's lion sits atop the grave of General Robert Patterson (Sec. K, #38, 51). Surrounded by the usual commemorative trappings of military service, the lion was obviously chosen for its associations with strength and courage. The human soul is a harder concept to depict sculpturally. An able and creative attempt is Alexander Milne Calder's design for William Warner's monument: a winged head escaping from a sarcophagus (ca. 1889, Sec. J, #74, 76). Bringing funerary allegory into the 20th century, Harriet Frishmuth's Berwind monument features a female figure reaching heavenward to signify "Aspiration" (1933, Sec. U, #562).

As suggested above, members of certain social groups have tended to cluster into distinct "neighborhoods" in both life and death. Laurel Hill's managers maintained some control over this pattern by regulating the size, price, and location of lots. Together, lot holders and managers gradually assembled Millionaire's Row, a nouveau riche district in the southeastern portion of Section K. This contains the temple-fronted Kemble, Widener, and Childs mausoleums, built at the turn of the century (Sec. K, #330; Sec. K, #337; Sec. K, #338). Not far away, the body of tool manufacturer Henry Disston rests in a French Renaissance mausoleum, while the Benson and Jex mausoleums assume Moorish and Eastlake forms (ca. 1879, Bridge Sec, #1-4; ca. 1870, Sec. K, #324; ca. 1885, Sec. K, #317). As late as 1903, the Blabon mausoleum serves as a study in the Egyptian Revival (Bridge Sec., #31). Art Nouveau design characterizes the later mausoleum of Lillie Keim (Sec. V, #16).

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania View of John Notman's grave from the west, with the west (rear) elevation of the gatehouse in the background (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-3)
View of John Notman's grave from the west, with the west (rear) elevation of the gatehouse in the background (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-3)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania North section, view looking back toward the gatehouse (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-4)
North section, view looking back toward the gatehouse (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-4)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania View looking north to south down road leading to gatehouse (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-5)
View looking north to south down road leading to gatehouse (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-5)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania North section, general view of circle (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-8)
North section, general view of circle (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-8)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania North section H, Joseph S. Lewis tomb (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-12)
North section H, Joseph S. Lewis tomb (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-12)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania General view of the river section terraces looking from west southwest (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-20)
General view of the river section terraces looking from west southwest (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-20)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania View of the grave of Frank Furness, with the lea monument in the background (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-27)
View of the grave of Frank Furness, with the lea monument in the background (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-27)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania River section, Frank Lennig mausoleum (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-28)
River section, Frank Lennig mausoleum (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-28)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Meade monument (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-29)
Meade monument (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-29)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Central section, Millionaire's Row (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-44)
Central section, Millionaire's Row (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-44)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Central section, view from the southeast (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-45)
Central section, view from the southeast (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-45)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania South section 15, view to William J. Mullen monument (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-58)
South section 15, view to William J. Mullen monument (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-58)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania South section 15, perspective view of the William J. Mullen monument (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-59)
South section 15, perspective view of the William J. Mullen monument (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-59)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania South section, general view looking north to south (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-64)
South section, general view looking north to south (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-64)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania South section, view looking toward the mausoleums in section 10 (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-65)
South section, view looking toward the mausoleums in section 10 (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-65)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania General view in central section, looking up hill from the Rieman plot (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-47)
General view in central section, looking up hill from the Rieman plot (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-47)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania General view along roadway (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-77)
General view along roadway (duplicate of HABS No. PA-1811-77)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania General view, Warner family plot
General view, Warner family plot