A graveyard might not be the first place you’d think to visit or include as a stop on your next road trip or vacation. But graveyards and cemeteries can be beautiful and are often historic as well. In the Northeast, the historic graveyards near you may include the graves of pilgrims, founding fathers, artists, activists and other well-known historic figures. Here are some of the most scenic and historic graveyards in the Northeast.
The parish of Trinity Church has three cemeteries, but none so historic as Trinity Churchyard in lower Manhattan. While it may have been in use since the 1660s, the oldest surviving memorial dates to 1681. Many historic figures are interred at Trinity Churchyard, including Alexander Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Philip Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler Church, Hercules Mulligan, Francis Lewis, William Bradford and Robert Fulton. Make sure to visit the Soldiers’ Monument in memory of the Revolutionary War, and the Fireman’s Memorial Monument, in memory of six firefighters who were killed during the Civil War.
Trinity Churchyard is miniscule in comparison to Calvary. It’s the largest cemetery in the United States, containing over 3 million graves and stretching across 365 acres. Calvary Cemetery was featured in “The Godfather,” and many infamous organized crime figures are interred within its grounds. Other notable burials include the first person to be processed through Ellis Island and a survivor of the R.M.S. Titanic sinking.
As you pass through the massive Gothic revival gates of Green-Wood Cemetery, you’re also stepping back into history. This rural cemetery, opened in 1838, is like a combination of a graveyard and an inviting public park. There are many notable figures interred in the grounds of this National Historic Landmark, including Leonard Bernstein, two of the Fox sisters, Nathaniel Currier, James Ives, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Jean-Michel Basquiat and several Roosevelts.
Mount Hope Cemetery
The sprawling Mount Hope Cemetery was founded in 1838 and is an early example of the rural cemetery movement, which aimed to make cemeteries more inviting to the living. Rural cemeteries are designed like parks or gardens, with rolling landscapes and pleasing features like ponds or gazebos. Mount Hope Cemetery is certainly picturesque, and contains a wide variety of different monuments from its long history. You can even see Tiffany glass windows on some of the mausoleums. Many historic figures are buried here, but perhaps none so prominent as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Both gravesites attract visitors who often come on Election Day to pay their respects.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery was the very first rural cemetery in the United States, founded in 1831. This National Historic Landmark doubles as an arboretum, as its vast collection of trees shade its historic monuments and rolling landscape. Its beauty made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the 1800s. Notable gravesites include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, Harriet Ann Jacobs and Julia Ward Howe. Visitors can also enjoy buildings like the Washington Tower and the Bigelow Chapel.
Granary Burying Ground
Established in 1660, Granary Burying Ground is one of the most historic graveyards in Boston. While it may appear to be an unassuming old cemetery at first, Granary Burying Ground is actually the final resting place of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Payne, Paul Revere and several members of Benjamin Franklin’s family (Franklin himself his buried in Philadelphia). It is also the final resting place of the victims of the 1770 Boston Massacre, including Crispus Attucks.
Myles Standish Burial Ground
The Myles Standish Burial Ground, established in 1638, is the oldest graveyard in the country. It takes its name from one of its most famous inhabitants, Capt. Myles Standish, who came to America on the Mayflower. Several other Mayflower passengers are interred in the burial ground as well. This peaceful graveyard filled with time-worn and battered gravestones is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Standish’s final resting place is marked with an American flag and surrounded by cannons.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Though it has no relation to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (that story takes place in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.), Concord’s Sleepy Hollow is a particularly literary historic graveyard. Established in 1855, this cemetery is most well-known for Authors Ridge, the final resting place of Henry David Thoreau, Nathanial Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Visitors to these graves are known to leave pens, pencils and poems behind in honor of these literary legends. The cemetery is also home to several other writers, as well as Mary Lemist Titcomb, the founder of the Bookmobile.
Swan Point Cemetery
First established in 1846, Swan Point Cemetery is a rural cemetery that’s still in operation today. Offering standard burials, green burials, cremation and more. There are a lot of ways to spend eternity in Swan Point Cemetery. Visitors can take self-guided historical walking tours, which will take them to sites like the Memorial Grove Garden Megalith, the largest stone in an American cemetery, the white marble Grosvenor Lot, the Hope Memorial Garden and more. Many Rhode Island governors and other politicians are buried in these grounds, as well as author H.P. Lovecraft.
Barre is also known as the Granite Capital of the World, and that’s plain to see in Hope Cemetery. Established in 1865, Hope Cemetery features exceptional granite monuments in unique shapes and styles. The monuments and gravestones of Hope Cemetery are so unique that it’s also known as a museum of granite sculpture. Many of the gravestones in the cemetery were actually designed by those resting just below. Visitors can see monuments shaped like airplanes, furniture, race cars, intertwined lovers and more.
Grove Street Cemetery
New Haven, Conn.
Time to head to the Ivy Leagues. Grove Street Cemetery is a historic cemetery surrounded by the Yale campus. Founded in 1796, the Grove Street Cemetery was the first chartered burial ground in the United States. It was also the first cemetery to allow for the creation of family lots, so family members could be buried alongside each other. Before then, bodies were simply buried anywhere in the graveyard where there was enough room. The “city of the dead” layout of Grove Street Cemetery included named roads and walkways to make it easier for visitors to navigate. Unsurprisingly, many Yale presidents and faculty are buried here, along with notable historic figures like Eli Whitney and Noah Webster.
Are we forgetting any historic graveyards or cemeteries? Tell us about them in the comments below!
Looking for some chills and thrills with your history? Check out these haunted places in the Northeast.