Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

by Gray Cargill on February 2, 2009

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District of New Orleans is over 170 years old and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was once part of the Livaudais Plantation. During my trip to New Orleans, I booked a cemetery tour here with a group called Save Our Cemeteries.  This group was founded in 1974 to preserve and restore New Orleans historical cemeteries.  The money they raise on the tours goes to this preservation effort, and they also raise money through grants, fundraisers and donations.  My guide, Jane, has been giving these tours since 1982.

As you may recall from reading another blog post of mine, I am a fan of interesting cemeteries.  However, there’s a bit of a difference between seeing who is buried in a cemetery and hearing some of the burial details, if you know what I mean.  For instance, in order to grasp the fact that several generations of the same family might be buried within the same drawer-sized crypt, you have to think about the logistics of fitting all those corpses, bones, and decomposing bodies into the same small space.  Creepy. The same goes for the fact that bodies were entombed above ground in New Orleans because once a hole was dug for a coffin, the hole would fill with water and the coffin would float; holes had to be drilled into the coffin so it would fill with water and sink (to the accompaniment of gurgling noises).  More creepy.  Apparently, these people had never heard of cremation.

I will say, though, that this is the most photogenic cemetery I’ve had the pleasure of touring.   I got some fantastic photos here.  You can see some of my favorites in my gallery below.

The tour of Lafayette No. 1 is given on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30am.  Meet your guide at the entrance to the cemetery, located on the 1400 block of Washington Ave, just a short walk from the Washington Ave. stop on the St. Charles Streetcar line.  You do not need to make reservations, but it is recommended that you call first to make sure the tour is happening.  It is first come, first served. The tour lasts about an hour and costs $6 for adults ($5 for senior citizens and students).

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