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Exploring the History of Above Ground Cemeteries in New Orleans

When you visit New Orleans, one of the unusual things you will notice is their cemetery setup. Most graves are found buried six feet deep, but in New Orleans, it’s the opposite. To enlighten your mind, learn about the reason why cemeteries in this place are sticking up the ground.

Originally, graves were buried under the ground, but due to some reason and influence from Europeans and Easterners, the way of burying the dead has changed. Discover the reason behind it and get to see it for yourself, as cemeteries are open for tours in New Orleans. But before you book your tour, get a little background on these unique cemeteries.

Unlock the secrets of New Orleans’ above-ground cemeteries. Dive into history and discover why the dead rest above ground. Book your corporate tour with NOLA DMC today and witness the unique burial traditions firsthand!

Contact us today to request a proposal and for more details!

Historical Background

The Origins of Above-Ground Burials in New Orleans

Between 1724 and 1789, the dead were buried in the usual way, which is below the ground. However, due to the location of New Orleans, which is below sea level, the graves were often washed away, and because of that, cemeteries were closed.

Dead bodies were discovered in the years that followed. In 1984, workmen found thirty-two graves while constructing condominiums.

Influence of French and Spanish Colonial Practices on Burial Methods

When architect Jacques Nicholas Bussiere de Pouilly came to New Orleans in 1833, he carried a notebook filled with sketches of cemeteries he had seen in Paris. This is where the building of the cemetery above the ground started.

Reasons for Above-Ground Cemeteries

tomb lafayette cemetery

  1. Geographical Challenges: High Water Table and Flooding Risks

    Due to New Orleans’s location below sea level, graves are built above ground to prevent them from being washed out.

  2. Health Concerns and Epidemics

    Excavated bodies from the cemetery were thought to be the cause of an epidemic that struck in 1830. This occurrence has pushed the government to mandate graves be built above the ground. However, an exemption is made for graves that are inside tombs and vaults, which can still be buried underground.

  3. Cultural and Religious Influences

    The architects who have come to introduce the tomb building have also introduced the culture from other places like Paris, which was adopted by the people in New Orleans.

Famous Cemeteries and Their Significance

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Its Famous Residents

St. Louis Cemetery #1St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is known as the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, where noble people are buried. In this cemetery, the dead are buried under the ground. Until the government Spanish consul obligated people to move their cemetery to a new location.

Notable individuals buried here include:

  • Etienne de Boré, the first mayor of New Orleans;
  • Homer Plessy, the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights, and
  • Marie Laveau, the renowned Voodoo priestess.

Lafayette Cemetery and its Garden District

Located in New Orleans’ Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is a historic cemetery. Founded in 1833, it remains operational to this day.

The name of this cemetery was taken from its location, which was once Lafayette City, a part of New Orleans. It was said that it has 500 vaults where the first settlers from Germany and Ireland are buried.

The Garden District, a National Historic Landmark District, is where the cemetery is located. In this area, Victorian, Italianate, and Greek Revival architectural styles are distinctly blended to create magnificent antebellum houses and lovely gardens that line the sidewalks.

Other Historically Significant Cemeteries in New Orleans

  • St.Roch Cemetery

    Few people visit this large New Orleans cemetery, which was founded in 1874 and is regarded as haunted. It is one of the largest in the city.

  • Metairie Cemetery

    This cemetery is a historic cemetery in New Orleans. Despite its name, it’s not located in Metairie but in Metairie Street within the New Orlean city limit. Tagged as the most beautiful cemetery in New Orleans, you can find here the finest tomb. The structures are pyramid-shaped and have a British castle feel to them.

To see the unique cemeteries for yourself and discover more about New Orleans’ history, contact NOLA DMC to be your local guide to the best corporate tours and experiences in the city. We know the area well, and we can take you to the most famous cemeteries in the city.

We can arrange the schedule and let you have a closer look at those tombs and vaults that are part of our region’s history. So call us now and let’s make your travel one of a kind.

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