Mt Moraih is as close to an Indiana Jones adventure as you’ll find in Philadelphia. Begun in 1855, Mt Moriah is one of the largest cemeteries in the country, but today there are no owners, and nature is doing her best to reclaim the area.
Mount Moraih catered to a more middle class clientele than Philadelphia’s other Victorian cemeteries, Woodlands and Laurel Hill, and today there is plenty to explore, including a Union Soldier graveyard – which houses the remains of over 400 Civil War soldiers who died in area hospitals. The cemetery also houses a Naval plot (also dating back to the Civil War), which is the resting spot of over 2,400 US Navy officers and seamen, many from a local hospital and residential care facility that cared for disabled and indigent sailors. Unlike the rest of the cemetery, both of these areas are maintained by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, so they are still neat and tidy.
Located atop a hill is and area of the cemetery, known as Masons Circle. In the center is a 35-foot high monument topped by a Masonic square and compass, dedicated to William B. Schnider, Grand Tyler of Pennsylvania’s Central Grand Lodge. It is surrounded by graves with loads of masonic symbols.
The real fun of the cemetery is exploring the overgrown areas (just watch out for poison ivy!).
The cemetery is also home to Betsy Ross’s former resting spot (actually her second resting spot; she was originally buried at the Free Quaker Meeting house. Her remains were brought here soon after the cemetery was opened). In 1975, Betsy Ross’ descendants petitioned to have her remains moved to the Betsy Ross House in Old City. The headstone at her grave had been stolen years before, so her exact location was questionable. Bones were found in the estimated vicinity of her grave and these were moved. Whether these were Betsy’s or not is still unknown.
While future plans for the site remain up in the air, a dedicated crew of volunteers are doing their best to keep areas accessible (burials continued through 2011, so there is still plenty of active visitation) and maintain the old structures.
Open daily (use the Kingsessing Avenue entrance). Plenty of street parking. In Tobey’s words, this is a “sketchy” part of town. Not unsafe, but be aware.
Location: West Philadelphia. Not far from Woodlands and the restaurants along Baltimore Avenue (https://secretsofphiladelphia.com/2018/11/04/botany-in-early-philadelphia-pt-2-woodlands-americas-first-neoclassical-mansion-and-a-victorian-cemetery/)
I love an overgrown cemetery, though it does make me feel a bit bad for the people buried there (not that they’re around to care, I guess). What’s in that spooky looking hole?
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Alas, the hole was empty (at least of anything visible 👻). It looked like the entrance to a mausoleum with the facade missing. Nowhere as great as your overgrown London cemeteries, but we have to make do.
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