Whenever I take a trip, I do some quick research to see if there are any interesting cemeteries nearby. It’s one of my favorite parts of any trip. On a recent trip, I realized we would be close enough to visit Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Mount Moriah Cemetery is located in southwest Philadelphia, covers 380 acres with over 85,000 graves making it the largest cemetery in Pennsylvania. What makes this cemetery so unusual and fascinating to me is that it is considered to be an abandoned cemetery. It’s difficult to see the paths to drive through the cemetery, and most of the cemetery is completely overgrown. Many of the headstones are barely visible through the brush.
Mount Moriah Cemetery was incorporated on March 27th, 1855, and was known as one of three cemeteries that Philadelphia’s Victorian upper class favored. I imagine this cemetery in its prime must have been beautiful with acres and acres spread out before you and enormous, intricately carved headstones dotting the landscape.
We arrived at the cemetery after spending a few hours at Pennhurst and parked the car in front of a hill lined with some very impressive, bricked up mausoleums. I mentioned to Matt that I felt like we were in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. It was an incredibly warm day, and the humidity was quite high. Not something I’m used to as I’ve lived out west my whole life.
While Matt moved the car to a better location, I decided to head up the stone steps to get a closer look at the mausoleums. I was met at the top of the stairs by a very large, and very surprised groundhog. After staring at me for a minute, he ran into the overgrowth, and I made my way through the mausoleums hoping I didn’t run into the groundhog again.
I was amazed at just how large the cemetery is. Everywhere you looked you could see headstones peeking out through the bushes and trees.
Mount Moriah cemetery contains a naval and army plots that are maintained by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The first internment in this took place on March 26, 1865. Many of those buried here are Medal of Honor recipients, like Thomas G. Lyons. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Civil War.
In 2004, the last remaining member of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association died. This association cared for the cemetery since it was founded. His death left ownership of the cemetery in legal limbo and led to the closing of the cemetery in 2011.
The group, Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery has taken up the cause of this wonderful historic cemetery. They are actively working to preserve and restore the headstones, and maintain the cemetery. They estimate that the cost to maintain the cemetery grounds is more than $500,000 per year.
To find out how you can help, click here.