Allegheny Cemetery: Think of it as a historic park. September 17, 2009Posted by krbradford in National Register of Historic Places.
I think some people find it macabre to visit a cemetery to sightsee, but I think it is one of a city’s most fascinating and telling sites. I’ve heard it said that you can learn a lot about a group of people by how they bury their dead, and I think it’s true. Pittsburgh has a number of beautiful cemeteries, and stunning grave memorials and mausoleums comemmorating important people in history that maybe only Pittsburghers know about. But it’s clear that locals respect the history of this town, its people and and its places. Allegheny Cemetery is located on a picturesque expanse of rolling hills looking out across the Allegheny River. It’s filled with old trees that provide shade and shelter. In my time there, I saw that it was also a haven for wildlife in an otherwise cement-heavy city – I saw a beautiful white-tailed deer, a great blue heron, groundhogs, and a whole flock of migrating Canada geese.
Beautiful statues, wrought iron, and stained glass adorned many of the memorials. People clearly tended many of the graves; even on some of the older sites I found fresh flowers, even some planted flowers as well as shrubbery and some Japanese maple trees. And while I was there, I saw people strolling through it like a park – couples, a jogger, a woman with a baby carriage. I was there with a toddler, who delighted in climbing up the stairs of the mausoleums and pointing at and touching the gravestones. I think these people, long dead, would smile to know that their gravesites still had visitors. Truly, it was more a park than a cemetery. There was none of that sense of sadness or eeriness that often pervades a graveyard; instead, I was pleased to enjoy a lovely stretch of green space in the middle of a big city, surrounded by the people who struggled to make Pittsburgh what it is today.
Allegheny Cemetery, located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, is sited on the north-facing slope above the Allegheny River. It was opened in 1845, and is the sixth oldest rural cemetery in America (I’m not sure what that means, but I think the site where it’s located was rural at the time it was built). It is now 300 acres and memorializes over 100,000 people. Some of the oldest gravesites are of soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War, and many important people in Pittsburgh are buried here.
Have you ever visited Find-A-Grave.com? At this cool site, you can search to find where a famous person is buried, or you can search by cemetery or region to see which famous people are buried in your area. It’s a neat place, and if you visit you can see some of the important people buried at Allegheny Cemetery. All in all, Allegheny Cemetery has been the best surprise of my SiteSee experience so far. I had no idea such a treasure was right in my city. I can’t wait to go back with my boyfriend and stroll around some more. Enjoy the slideshow of photos I took while I was there.