With an inspired title that captures the event’s horror and irony, a walking tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery scheduled for April 15 will commemorate the famed British ocean liner that tragically sank at the turn of the century, as well as the ship’s passengers who perished and survived.
Could alkaline hydrolysis be the body disposition option for you?
May 29, 2023
If you want to go — ultimately, that is — the way of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, better call (email, write to … ) your legislators…
Clay might, in the end, prefer green burial or natural organic reduction (aka human composting) to AH, but Laurel Hill president and CEO Nancy Goldenberg reports that a dozen area families have “preneeded for” — funeral industry lingo for “specified an advance preference for” — AH once it is legalized for human remains in Pennsylvania. Laurel Hill has offered AH for deceased pets since 2018, and its facility, adjacent to The Laurels Pet Center in Bala Cynwyd, has helped raise awareness. Many a pet parent has toured the space — marveling at its gleaming stainless steel chamber and its so-clean-you-could-eat-off-them floors — as have Reps. Daley and Rabb. System operator Eric Ellerbe hopes his explanations of AH will equip — and inspire — visitors to spread the word. “Usually when I tell them about it, they’re excited about the process,” he says. “That lets me know that they’ll tell others.”
Laurel Hill Cemetery lays wreaths to honor veterans ahead of Memorial Day
May 29, 2023
More than 5,000 veterans are buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery. Wreaths were laid at the graves of previously unmarked veterans Sunday.
More than 100 people gathered at Laurel Hill Cemetery the day before Memorial Day to honor the lives of veterans past and present.
Philadelphia cemetery continues Memorial Day tradition
May 28, 2023
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Back in 1868, Laurel Hill East was the site for the very first Memorial Day celebration in Philadelphia. At the beat of the drums, people marched in Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Some were in replica Civil War-era military uniforms while they watched as wreaths were placed near headstones of veterans like Union Major General George G. Meade.
“The greatest war hero in the history of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He was the victor of the Battle of Gettysburg,” Andy Waskia of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia said.
The ceremony brought generations together to honor the true meaning of the holiday.
“It’s certainly more than picnics and going to the beach and vacation and that sort of thing,” U.S. Army Corporal Technician Benjamin Berry said.
“It certainly means so much to me to see the youngsters being brought to these occasions,” the 99-year-old World War II Veteran said.
Sebastian Major is one of those youngsters.
At just 16, he had the honor of playing Taps during the service.
“It’s really important that our generation understands the people who lost their lives either in or before combat that allows us to enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country today,” Major said
Life After Death
May 7, 2023
Like Easton, many of these nearly 200-year-old cemeteries are still active and popular today, including Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Because these cemeteries have faced similar challenges to Easton Cemetery, they’ve served as a model to Easton’s board members in how they can pivot towards focusing less on burials and more on education and experience.
Laurel Hill has a handful of ticketed tours every month with different themes like art and architecture, athletics, music, or nature that regularly fill up, said Laurel Hill President and CEO Nancy Goldenberg. Like Easton’s, the still-active Philadelphia cemetery has its own Friends nonprofit, formed back in 1978, that’s helped to put together Laurel Hill’s extensive programming.
“It takes a while to build up to that level of programming,” Goldenberg said, but it’s built a strong base of interest. The tours, depending on the popularity of the topic, have good attendance, she said, and some of the performance events the cemetery hosts can bring in well over 100 people.
While tickets to Laurel Hill’s tours and events aren’t particularly expensive at $15 to $20, the cemetery’s popularity goes a long way. Easton’s could, too.
April 30, 2023
Known for its tranquil grounds and compassionate staff, historic Laurel Hill provides a breadth of funeral services and options to honor the memories of those we have lost.
Laurel Hill’s elegant grounds serve many purposes. Chiefly, they provide an inimitable final resting place for loved ones. They offer a serene backdrop for those who wish to exercise, feel connected to history, or simply appreciate all that Mother Nature has to offer. It’s almost impossible to imagine Philadelphia without Laurel Hill, which is rather remarkable given the era it in which it was brought to life.
Laurel Hill traces its roots to a local librarian named John Jay Smith, who had a passion for landscape design. As the story goes, Smith’s daughter died at a young age, and when he went to visit her burial site, he was appalled by the conditions. The early 1800s were a time of heavy industrialization in American cities like Philadelphia, and graveyards at the time were usually attached to religious institutions and not given much thought. Smith made it his mission to help usher in the movement toward rural cemeteries that was starting in Europe. He found the perfect location on an estate overlooking the Schuylkill River.
Green Burials Help Lessen Carbon Footprint After Death
Green burials are a way of reducing carbon footprints after death while still celebrating the life of a loved one. NBC10’s Matt Delucia has the story.
10 Can't-Miss Experiences on Philly's Schuylkill River Trail
April 19, 2023
Get lost in one of the oldest rural cemeteries in the nation.
One of the most scenic spots in Philadelphia? A cemetery. Laurel Hill Cemetery, the second-oldest garden cemetery on the continent, evokes a bygone era when cemeteries were built intentionally in scenic areas, and visitors would come to walk the grounds not in mourning but to see the wondrous architecture and peaceful landscapes. Visitors wandering the free-to-visit attraction’s 74 acres take in 33,000 gravesites, including the final resting places of Civil and Revolutionary War soldiers along with numerous luminaries from David Rittenhouse to Harry Kalas to Rocky Balboa’s fictional wife and bestie. (Download the cemetery’s free app for three self-guided tours.) The cemetery also hosts a slew of incredible activities throughout the year, including yoga classes, film festivals, concerts among the headstones, poetry readings, book clubs and picnics. To access the cemetery from the SRT, just cross the street at the intersection of Kelly Drive and Hunting Park Avenue.
20 Gorgeous Philly-Area Gardens and Arboretums to Visit Now
April 15, 2023
Laurel Hill, West Philadelphia and Bala Cynwyd
Taken together, these two historic cemeteries on either side of the Schuylkill form a 265-acre arboretum with over 6,000 trees and shrubs representative of 700 species, plus a variety of display gardens. Founder John Jay Smith, along with Scottish architect Jon Notman, laid out the cemetery in the “Gardenesque” style in 1836, but it continues to grow and expand. Its newest addition? Pollinator gardens planted in 2020. Be sure to check out their event calendar for everything from tours to goat walks.
History's Headlines: Confederate general from Pennsylvania
March 11, 2023
Wednesday, August 14, 1907, was cooler than most summer days in New York. Newspaper headlines shouted of a stock market crash, a strike by telegraph workers, and a friendly meeting between England’s King Edward VII and his cousin, Germany’s Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, on their yachts. That same day Georgia’s state legislature passed an election law which was written in such a way that would virtually deny the state’s Black citizens the right to vote. The governor announced he would sign it as soon as it got to his desk.
But for residents of 226 West 78th Street the day was marked by a personal tragedy, the death of 82-year-old Martha “Pattie” Thompson Pemberton. Since the death of her husband, Confederate General John C. Pemberton, in 1881, Mrs. Pemberton had lived at the Manhattan home of her daughter, Mrs. Patricia Pemberton Berman, and her stockbroker husband. Although an invalid for the previous eight years, Mrs. Pemberton’s end had come suddenly. The brief obituary noted the funeral would take place on August 16th at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery where she would be interred beside her husband. The train carrying her remains was scheduled to arrive at the city’s Broad Street Station at 3:10 that afternoon.
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia Refreshed With Facade Renovation
March 7, 2023
Sharing the Stories of Six Cemeteries
The feedback to Season One of “The World’s Greatest Cemeteries” was so “embarrassingly positive” that host and producer Roberto Mighty knew there would be a Season Two.
“These are massive national parks and museums,” Mighty said. “They are also multi-million-dollar operations and tourist attractions, people come from all over the world. They come to see the graves of their favorite people, are treated to these horticulture masterpieces, arboretums, architecture and landscape. We show how beautiful these cemeteries are. Plus, there’s lots of great stories.”
All six Season Two episodes will be on PBS.org for free, with no membership required until April 18.
Laurel Hill in Philadelphia and Laurel Hill West in Bala Cynwyd are highlighted in Episode Five. Mighty explores the Medallion Garden and discusses the graves of jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., Civil War General George Meade, inventor Martha Coston and singer Teddy Pendergrass.
World's Greatest Cemeteries on PBS
February 24, 2023
100 years ago, a big-leaguer known as ‘Icicle’ died on Christmas. A Phillies fan keeps his memory alive.
December 22, 2022
In what is now a Yuletide tradition, Karen Penn dropped by Laurel Hill Cemetery on a cloudy and chilly Monday morning recently to pay her respects, laying fresh Christmas greenery at the grave of a second cousin, three times removed, whom she never met.
This is a special year, because that cousin, Weston Dickson Fisler, died on Dec. 25, 1922, 100 years ago. Wes Fisler was a special relative, because, as Penn discovered while researching her family roots, he’d been a 19th century professional baseball player of note.
And yet, for reasons Penn can’t quite pinpoint, his grave was unmarked until five years ago.
The Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries
October 18, 2022
Halloween for Grownups: Pop-Up Bars, Spooky Soirées and More Philly Haunts
september 22, 2022
Tours at Laurel Hill Cemetery
There’s no better time of year for a scary stroll than October, and there’s no better place for it than a historic graveyard. Laurel Hill is offering all sorts of spooky tours, including their classic Halloween flashlight tours. See their whole calendar of events and choose a perfectly macabre tour here.
This annual fundraiser of Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery invites guests to come in costume or masquerade attire (and there are costume contests!), so if you’re looking for a spooky and swanky evening for a good cause, this one’s for you. The ticket cost benefits a good cause, but if the $250 price tag is too rich for your blood (Halloween pun intended), there’s also a $95 “Graveyard Shift” option for ages 21 to 40 to attend from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.
$95-$500; October 21st, 7 p.m.-midnight, Masonic Temple, 1 North Broad Street.
Arboretum director testifies on benefits of public gardens to state tourism
september 20, 2022
The committee hearing held last Friday focused on the role and impact of public gardens in tourism in Pennsylvania and was held at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Sclar, the former executive director of the American Public Gardens Association, is the new H.O. Smith Endowed Director of The Arboretum at Penn State.
Sclar noted that an estimated 120 million people visit public gardens across the country every year — almost as much as attendance for all major professional sports combined. An estimated 4.5 million people visit public gardens in Pennsylvania each year, he said.
Also testifying Friday on behalf of the Pennsylvania Public Horticulture Coalition were Keith Kaiser, CEO of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, Nick D’ Addezio, marketing vice president of Longwood Gardens, and Nancy Goldenberg, president and CEO of Laurel Hill, a historic cemetery and garden in Philadelphia. Several regional tourism bureaus, as well as representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development also gave testimony.
Bike DelCo: Pushing the Edges of Possibility
september 20, 2022
In the past half-year, Bike Delaware County has grown to become a regular presence in Delaware County. We have assembled a fourteen-member action team, hosted two rides in the spring and are co-sponsoring at least 3 in the fall, and have begun outlining areas of intervention for safe bicycling–the many “Edges of Possibility” Delco has to offer. Our rides involve routes stitched together through individual trial-and-error, community-generated routes that are gaining increasing Township approvals like the Main Line Greenway, and bona-fide bike trails in the works throughout the county. As a McSweeney’s piece recently implied, we have a lot of work to do to make biking safe in this country, and that includes making bicyclists’ presence known and normal to residents.
In April, a group of about three dozen people gathered in support of the Main Line Greenway, a low-stress, grass-roots bicycle route connecting a variety of side streets and trails in Montgomery and Delaware Counties. The route extends between West Laurel Hill Cemetery on the eastern end and Stoneleigh Gardens on the western end. The group rode the western end of the Greenway, from Haverford College into Lower Merion Ward 10, to Bryn Mawr College, then Rosemont and Villanova, before ending at Stoneleigh and returning through Radnor Township and Haverford Township. We had a wonderful mix of families and students, along with residents from all of the involved townships and boroughs. Special thanks to Lou Savastani, chair of Bike Montco, who volunteered to co-lead the 4/24 ride.
New birding festival set for October in Philadelphia
september 13, 2022
A new birding festival will debut in Philadelphia in October.
Audubon Mid-Atlantic will host the inaugural Philly Birding Weekend over the weekend of October 7-9, featuring some of the city’s iconic green spaces and birds making their fall migration.
As with most birding festivals, the new Philadelphia event will be heavy on birding field trips.
Laurel Hill Cemetery, a 74-acre, historic garden cemetery in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, will host a Saturday afternoon walking session. From its overlook over the Schuylkill River, 45 species of birds have been recorded during the month of October.
Your Guide to the 2022 Philadelphia Fringe Festival
september 7, 2022
Death is a Cabaret Ol’ Chum
This perfect segue into the Halloween spirit takes place at Laurel Hill Cemetery, complete with cocktails and music from the likes of Amy Winehouse and Sonny & Cher. Bring a blanket to clutch for what REV Theatre Company calls a “toe-tapping, spine tingling good time.”
September 9th-17th, Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Avenue.
Cemetery Picnics: Try This Victorian Hobby At Laurel Hill
august 28, 2022
A vacation story highlighting a cemetery immediately sounds weird, odd, even creepy. Why exactly would vacationers elect to have a picnic meal in the very shadow of death? For many, it would be more puzzling as Philadelphia is not short of beautiful destinations where a delectable meal can be enjoyed in an ambiance of life in all its dynamic vivacity. In fact, there are some spots, five of them, that those who vacation in Philadelphia should avoid. It turns out that none of them is a cemetery.
Yet, if one is looking for something truly unique while visiting Philadelphia, a detour to Laurel Hill should form part of the travel plans. There’s a lot of intriguing history in this Victorian-era hobby. And the experience itself will be one of a lifetime. Here’s the good news: An hour or two at the cemetery will just be enough.
Cemetery Picnics: Tracing The Puzzling Roots
Less than two hundred years ago, Philadelphians would eat—and then rest in peace—as it were, among those who were also resting in peace. Today it would look bizarre. But in the 19th century, it raised no eyebrows. Established in 1836, Laurel Hill was the scene and theater of this practice, now almost entirely out of vogue. And it wasn’t just in Laurel Hill, or even in the “City of Brotherly Love,” as Philadelphia has come to be known. It was a practice that was taking place all over the United States.
10 Cemeteries Around The World That Are More Beautiful Than Creepy
august 13, 2022
There’s something about a cemetery that seems to stir up emotions in everyone who visits it. Most people are scared of cemeteries because they remind them of the good times they spent with their loved ones. But the narrative is changing because there are a couple of beautiful cemeteries on different continents that prove that cemeteries don’t have to be depressing. With amazing architecture and impressive pieces of art, these cemeteries are sure to make travelers rethink the idea of death.
Laurel Hill Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark in East Falls, Philadelphia. The cemetery features graves of many notable Philadelphians, including Edwin Henry Fitler, Robert Adams Jr., and Henry Disston. Laurel Hill Cemetery is one of Philadelphia’s distinctive tourist destinations because of its magnificent monuments and lovely environs. The 74 acres of the cemetery offer a spectacular view of the Schuylkill River and a variety of sites to hike, bike, and take in the scenery.
Most Haunted Places in Philadelphia
july 16, 2022
In Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia has a rich history and many haunted spots. The city’s many haunted buildings have old, haunting architecture that leads to ghost sightings. Some of the oldest buildings in the city are particularly haunted, including Eastern State Penitentiary. This article mentions the Betsy Ross House, Laurel Hill Cemetery, and Fort Mifflin. Read on to learn more.
Laurel Hill East
If you’re searching for the most haunted places in Philadelphia, you’re in for a treat. Philadelphia is the oldest city in the country and is home to many renowned ghost stories. From old mansions where ex-wives cried foul to historic cemeteries where fallen soldiers were buried, Philadelphia has more than a few places to explore. You’ll find unmistakable cries at night and even furniture that moves independently.
The cemetery is home to the graves of some of the city’s most prominent people. A mausoleum for a wealthy landowner, such as George W. Childs, is lined with the remains of new money industrialists and financiers. His family plot was next door to another one, the Logan Burial Ground, and he was the joint owner of the Public Ledger. Drexel and Childs later developed a suburban community, Wayne on the Main Line, where they buried each other.
Laurel Hill Announces its New Brand
july 13, 2022
Two of the Philadelphia Region’s Most Historic Cemeteries Get a Facelift
PHILADELPHIA (July 2022) – Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery and West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home announced today the release of a brand refresh, including a new name, logo, and website. The new brand, Laurel Hill, is part of a larger strategic planning process of increasing clarity and greater connectivity between the organization’s cemetery services, funeral services, educational programs, and arboretum.
The new brand, rooted in centuries of stewardship and stories while embracing a future of growth and sustainability, unifies Laurel Hill East (Philadelphia, PA), Laurel Hill West (Bala Cynwyd, PA), Laurel Hill Funeral Home (Bala Cynwyd, PA), and the Friends of Laurel Hill. The brand platform is built on the organization’s three foundational pillars of eternal rest, recreation, and civic value.
“Our new brand brings a new dimension to our organization that clearly articulates who we are, what we do, and what differentiates us,” said Nancy Goldenberg, President & CEO of Laurel Hill. “With Laurel Hill, we now have a clear level of consistency across multiple communication channels which we know our audiences will find attractive and useful.”
Laurel Hill Cemetery Rebrands With New Name, Logo, Website
july 8, 2022
The new initiative brings together Laurel Hill East, Laurel Hill West, Laurel Hill Funeral Home, and the Friends of Laurel under one name.
The new brand, rooted in centuries of stewardship and stories while embracing a future of growth and sustainability, unifies Laurel Hill East, Laurel Hill West, Laurel Hill Funeral Home, and the Friends of Laurel Hill.
Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery will kill off its green Kelly Drive hillside — in order to save it
May 19, 2022
Thousands of motorists, cyclists, runners, and rowers pass the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia that rises 45 feet atop a steep slope overlooking Kelly Drive — the graveside monuments and headstones poking out from above as if guardians of the Schuylkill below.
Starting next week, that one-acre green slope at Kelly Drive and West Hunting Park Avenue will start turning brown as it gets defoliated with herbicides and by hand. The goal: Create a new meadow the cemetery’s owner believes will be more natural to the area, result in a haven for native bees and birds, help with erosion, and give passersby a more colorful view. Plus a granite outcrop that gives a commanding view of the river will be exposed for the first time in decades when ivy and other vegetation are gone.
“It’s a very unusual project. And we want to make sure the public is aware of what we are doing,” Nancy Goldenberg, president and CEO of Laurel Hill Cemetery, said during a walk Tuesday along the base of the slope. “I see thousands of people driving by or biking here every day. And this could all be gorgeous.”
22 Women to Watch in 2022
May 11, 2022
President and CEO, Laurel Hill Cemetery and West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home
As president and CEO of Laurel Hill Cemetery, Goldenberg seeks to create memorable experiences in new, gratifying ways among the diverse collection of art, history and horticulture in the company’s cemeteries. This year, she will continue to lead a team of caring professionals and insightful civic leaders who have positioned Laurel Hill as a model organization in an industry that continues to evolve.
What skills are you cultivating or exploring in 2022?
As some of the largest properties in urban areas, cemeteries are making a comeback, playing a greater role in supporting physical and mental health. Like so many cemeteries around the country, Laurel Hill experienced a record number of visitors over the past two years – partly driven by COVID-19 – as people discovered our safe and beautiful 265 acres.
We are among the handful of cemeteries nationally renowned for producing one-of-a-kind memorable, place-based experiences that people crave. As a repository of literally thousands of stories of buried souls, remarkable outdoor sculpture and an extraordinary history within a garden landscape, we have the capacity to tell unique narratives visitors find interesting and relevant. To that end, this year we are looking to improve our infrastructure and hone our hospitality services. We are working to become more operationally resilient by investing in technology and training. We’re also planning to launch a new brand and more creatively package and market our offerings to continue building new audiences who will engage with and trust us and remain loyal users.
An urban planning leader finds new life as the head of two historic Philadelphia cemeteries.
April 26, 2022
For someone who spent 35 years working to improve people’s quality of life, taking a leadership role in the death industry might seem like an odd move.
The job opportunity gave Nancy Goldenberg GCP’80 brief pause, too, before she joined Laurel Hill Cemetery and West Laurel Hill Cemetery & Funeral Home in 2018 as their first female president and CEO. “After thinking about it, I realized, ‘Wow, this is everything wrapped up in one for me,’” Goldenberg says. “Pretty much the only thing I hadn’t had experience in was the death industry, which is actually very interesting, creative, and innovative. And it’s all about the use of land. So I’m really loving my job.”
The stunning rise of cremation reveals America’s changing idea of death
April 19, 2022
In 2020, 56 percent of Americans who died were cremated, more than double the figure of 27 percent two decades earlier, according to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA). By 2040, 4 out of 5 Americans are projected to chose cremation over casket burial, according to both CANA and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).
This seismic shift represents potentially severe revenue losses for the funeral industry. It’s leading innovators to create a growing number of green alternatives and other choices that depart from traditional casket funerals. And rapidly shifting views about disposing with bodies have also led to changes in how we memorialize loved ones — and reflect an increasingly secular, transient and, some argue, death-phobic nation.
13 Cool Things to See & Do in Fairmount Park
March 25, 2022
In 1835, Quaker John Jay Smith was so upset with the burial situation in Philadelphia that he conspired with friends to conceive of a new cemetery, set in a picturesque location and without any religious affiliation. Laurel Hill Cemetery was founded in 1836 and is the final resting place of notable Philadelphians like David Rittenhouse, Civil War-era generals, Titanic passengers and even beloved Phillies announcer Harry Kalas. Marked by ornate tombstones and mausoleums, the cemetery is ideal for architecture lovers too. Among the extensive programmatic offerings are fun (not a word typically associated with cemeteries) themed tours, concerts and movie nights.
Philadelphia's Most Beautiful Cemeteries
March 21, 2022
Laurel Hill East Cemetery is justifiably famous. It was the second “rural cemetery” constructed in the United States, preceded only by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston. Founded in 1836, Laurel Hill East comprises 78 acres of land and is home to more than 33,000 graves. Unlike The Woodlands, which you can tour the entirety of within a few hours, you could spend a day walking through the beautiful landscape of Laurel Hill and not come near to seeing it all. That is part of its immense historic appeal – it is a place that invites you to return to it again and again, and it is guaranteed that on each visit you will encounter pieces of this city of the dead you have never seen before.
Things to Do for Valentine's Day Weekend in Greater Philadelphia for 2022
February 2, 2022
If you didn’t think Philadelphia would go all-out for Valentine’s Day, you’d be sorely mistaken (It is called the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, after all). Laurel Hill Cemetery hosts a pair of loved-themed tours of the grounds to honor the holiday.
PhillyFunGuide's Museum Store Holiday Gift Guide
December 9, 2021
The Laurel Hill Cemetery gift shop features a plethora of products representing their sculpture garden, arboretum, and important place in Philadelphia history.
9/11 Service Held At Heroes Memorial In Bala Cynwyd
September 11, 2021
BALA CYNWYD TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — Community members gathered on Saturday at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd to hold a ceremony for the day the world will never forget. The service took place at the Heroes Memorial with remarks from Lower Merion Township officials. Organizers said the event served as a reminder of our patriotic roots.
The best places to see fall foliage in the Philly region
October 12, 2021
Most people think of Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill as historic cemeteries, but they are also an accredited arboretum, with many native and non-native trees. While both have fall foliage, arboretum manager Aaron Greenberg says the best colors are at West Laurel Hill, where visitors can enjoy long alleyways flanked by sugar maples, which are known for their bright red color, and by ginkgo trees, which turn a distinctive yellow color, then drop their leaves.