Laurel Hill Cemetery Rescheduled to April 20

Special Tour: Laurel Hill Cemetery

Designing for the Dead: Art and Architecture at Laurel Hill

The birth of the rural or garden cemetery, with its spacious lots and bucolic landscapes, created a unique marketing opportunity for 19th century designers. Noted architects like John Notman, William Strickland, Frank Furness, and John J. McArthur, competed fiercely for the chance to design for the dead. Wealthy Philadelphians strolling through Laurel Hill would admire these monuments and seek out their designers, often forging cradle-to-grave relationships. On the “Designing for the Dead” walking tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery, join tour guide and writer, Thomas H. Keels, on a walk to see monuments created by these architects, as well as artists such as Alexander Milne Calder, his son Alexander Stirling Calder, and Harriet Frishmuth. We’ll also see the final resting places of John Notman, Frank Furness, and Thomas U. Walter, among others. Finally, we’ll review changing tastes in grave markers, from the classical obelisks and urns of the Federal period, to the decorated crosses of the Gothic Revival, to the massive mausoleums of the Gilded Age.

Thomas H. Keels is a lecturer, writer, and commentator specializing in Philadelphia history and architecture. He is the author or co-author of seven published books, including Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries; Wicked Philadelphia: Sin in the City of Brotherly Love; and Forgotten Philadelphia: Lost Architecture of the Quaker City. Tom’s latest book, Sesqui!  Greed, Graft, and The Forgotten World’s Fair of 1926, was published in 2017. 

A confirmed taphophile (Greek for “lover of graves”), Tom has been a tour guide at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia’s premier Victorian necropolis, for over 25 years. Recently, Tom was featured on the PBS program World’s Greatest Cemeteries, showing host Roberto Mighty the high points of Laurel Hill Cemetery. 

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