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Eight of the Most Interesting Cemeteries in America

These places of rest are known for their history, beauty and famous people interred

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Cemeteries seemed spooky places to avoid when I was young, but I’ve grown to appreciate them as a place to go to pay respects for my loved ones and also as a guide to our national history. Some of our favorite resting places below are significant not only because of their interred residents but because of the way they represent and reflect the populations that built their area, the commonality in life’s work and the flavor and development of that part of the nation. ​

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery​

Location: Los Angeles​

Founded: 1899​

Famous burials: Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Tyrone Power, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolf Valentino and Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and many other cartoon favorites, whose tomb reads, “That’s all folks.”

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What makes it special: Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, this cemetery is an integral part of the growth of early Hollywood and includes a walking map and guide for family and friends, as well as tourists. It hosts summer outdoor movie screenings, concerts and a Dia de los Muertos celebration.​

Green-Wood Cemetery

spinner image tombstones of green-wood cemetery in brooklyn on a sunny day
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​Location: Brooklyn, New York

Founded: 1838 as a rural cemetery​

Famous burials: Designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, printmakers Currier and Ives, public leaders Henry Ward Beecher and Horace Greely, businessmen Edward R. Squibb, William Colgate and Charles Pfizer, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and conductor Leonard Bernstein​

What makes it special: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark, it covers 478 acres. There’s a sculpted double gate entrance and a 19th century entrance building with clock tower and chapel.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1​

Location: New Orleans​

Founded: 1789, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans​

Famous burials: Voodoo queen Marie Laveau; Homer Plessy, plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case Plessy v. Fergusson; Etienne de Bore, wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry and first mayor of New Orleans; Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, first African American mayor of New Orleans; Alexander Dimitry, Creole author and educator; Paul Morphy, world chess champion before he was 20; musicians Danny Barker and Ernie K-Doe; and architect and pirate Barthelemy Lafon.

Why it’s special: The cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail. All the graves and mausoleums are above ground due to the high water table in New Orleans. A 9-foot pyramid towering over the cemetery marks the future resting place of actor Nicolas Cage.

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​Green River Cemetery

Location: Springs, New York

​Founded: officially in 1902; previously, it had been a burial ground for local fishing families since before the Civil War​

Famous burials: Artists Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Stuart Davis, Hannah Wilke, Ad Reinhardt and Alfonso Ossorio; Museum of Modern Art curator William Lieberman; film director Alan Pakula; actor Peter Boyle; and poet Frank O’Hara​

Why it’s special: Inventive grave markers dot the landscape. For instance, a granite bench and stack of books written by author Barbara Goldsmith marks her site. A boulder commemorates Jackson Pollock while a small rock designates his wife, Lee Krasner, who was also a revolutionary abstract expressionist. Many of the grave sculptures have the signature of the interred on a plaque.

Granary Burying Ground​

Location: Boston​

Founded: 1660​

Famous burials: Revolutionary War figures Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock and victims of the Boston Massacre

Why it’s special: It is one of the oldest cemeteries in the nation. It contains 2,300 unique grave markers but more than 5,000 internments. A central obelisk marks the grave of Benjamin Franklin’s parents, and near that is the Infant’s Tomb for hundreds of children.​

spinner image crown hill cemetery in indianpolis in the fall with city buildings in the background
Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Crown Hill Cemetery

spinner image crown hill cemetery in indianpolis in the fall with city buildings in the background
Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

​Location: Indianapolis​

Founded: 1863

​Famous burials: President Benjamin Harrison, bank robber John Dillinger​

Why it’s special: The third-largest privately owned cemetery in the U.S. spans 555 acres of pristine landscape and 25 miles of roads and features 130 species of trees. It has enough space for 200 years of future burials. The Crown, 842 feet above sea level, offers 360-degree views of the Indianapolis skyline.​

Graceland Cemetery​

spinner image chicago's graceland cemetery amid leafy trees
Getty Images

Location: Chicago ​

Founded: 1860​

Famous burials: Mies van der Rohe and many other architects; railway industrialist George Pullman; Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ; Allan Pinkerton, a detective who headed an intelligence agency that was the predecessor of the Secret Service; abolitionists John and Mary Richardson Jones

Why it’s special: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Graceland is known as the “Cemetery of Architects.” Many tombs have architectural interest, including the Getty Tomb, the Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum and the monument for one of the founders of the National League, William Hulbert, whose resting place is shaped like a baseball. The cemetery features an arboretum on 121 acres, which contains more than 2,000 trees. ​

Neptune Memorial Reef

Location: 3 miles off Key Biscayne, Florida​

Founded: 2007 ​

Famous burial: Julia Child​

Why it’s special: This 16-acre underwater necropolis is the largest man-made reef for burials. It is currently designed to hold the remains of 850 people, but upon completion, it will accommodate more than 250,000. Cremated remains of both people and pets are combined with cement to form tombstones, statues and cemetery gates 40 feet deep in the Atlantic Ocean. The structures have produced a habitat to promote coral and marine organisms’ growth, such as a sea urchin previously thought extinct. Guests arrive by boat and snorkel or scuba to visit loved ones and/or monitor the reef’s growth.​

Share Your Experience: Do you have a go-to cemetery to wander? What makes it special?

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