Lebanon Cemetery chapel, Philadelphia, by G. Dubois, 1850 (The Library Company of Philadelphia)

Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 5:30pm

Stiteler Hall B26, 208 South 37th Street

"Philadelphia's Other Rural Cemeteries"

A lecture by Aaron Wunsch, Assistant Professor in Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation, School of Design

Beginning in the late 1840s, Philadelphia witnessed the proliferation of  "rural cemeteries." This novel form was characterized by remote location, formidable gatehouse architecture, and picturesque  planning and plantings.   The formula,  exemplified by Laurel Hill, the Woodlands, and their counterparts in other cities, would inspire the public parks of the mid-nineteenth century.  But whereas Philadelphia's leading rural cemeteries were non-sectarian and aimed to accommodate well-to-do white customers, numerous cemeteries with similar characteristics were created by religious and benevolent societies that served segments of the populace who were excluded from the establishment. African-Americans, who had long sought respectable alternatives to burial in the "potter’s field," were especially active in this movement, as were white fraternal organizations such as the American Mechanics and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The new cemeteries were physically distinctive. While still conceptually "rural," they frankly acknowledged the organizing logic of the urban grid. They expanded the "social" tradition of Philadelphia’s early rural cemeteries and added a populist dimension to conceptions of public space.