In the 1830s when Green Mount Cemetery was built, graveyards in Baltimore turned over a new leaf and they became more than just graveyards.“Nobody wants to go to a graveyard right?” asks Wayne R. Schaumburg, Baltimore historian and educator. “By making the graveyard park-like, the idea was that this would be a place people would want to come, stroll the ground, bring a picnic lunch, believe it or not, sit next to Aunt Mary’s grave on a Sunday afternoon… and enjoy themselves.”
The first urban-rural cemetery was created in Boston in 1831. The idea was to landscape the grounds with flowers, trees and sculptures to make it look more like a park than a graveyard. This idea caught-on, and new types of graveyards were established all across the nation. In 1839, Baltimore joined the trend. Green Mount Cemetery was the fourth urban-rural cemetery in the nation and the first one in Maryland.
Schaumburg, also known as the Green Mount Cemetery tour guide, calls his tour the Who’s Who of Baltimore because of the prominent number of people buried there. Nearly 65,000 people are buried in Green Mount Cemetery, according to the plaque at the graveyard entrance, most notably the philanthropist Johns Hopkins, and John Wilkes Booth, one of the most infamous conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Before this fad of urban-rural cemeteries, most graveyards were tied to churches. The next graveyard in Baltimore worth visiting is called the Holy Redeemer Cemetery, which is a traditional Italian Roman Catholic Cemetery where originally only Christians could be buried. The Holy Redeemer Cemetery is owned and operated by the Redemptorist Fathers, which is an order of religious priests in the Catholic Church, according to the Holy Redeemer website. The Redemptorists were founded by St. Alphonsus Ligouri in 1732 to preach the good news of the Roman Catholic Church and they sent many disciples all around the world. This is when St. Newman, founder of Holy Redeemer Cemetery, traveled to Baltimore to establish a Catholic presence in the city.This cemetery has approximately 57 acres, making it one of the largest existing Roman Catholic cemeteries in Baltimore. This cemetery houses 67,000 bodies and still has room for about 10,000 more. The most famous people buried there include Babe Ruth’s mother, Catherine Ruth, and Henry Gunther, who is known as the last casualty of World War I.
The most famous graveyard in Baltimore is Westminster Hall, where iconic poet Edgar Allan Poe is buried. Westminster Burial Ground was originally established in 1786 by a Presbyterian congregation. The church was not constructed on the grounds until about 60 years later. In order to preserve the gravesites, the church was built on brick piers, creating a catacomb beneath the church. Edgar Allan Poe was not a native Baltimorean but died while traveling through Baltimore in October of 1849. Back then they did not have the capabilities to ship bodies across the country, so Poe stayed in the city he died in. Today Poe has two graves on-site at Westminster Hall, his original one and a better one purchased for him in 1875. A local teacher started “Pennies for Poe” which is a campaign where local schools raised pennies to purchase a better gravestone for Edgar Allan Poe, said Westminster Hall tour guide Lu Ann Marshall. They succeeded and purchased the monument still featured today near the front of the burial grounds.Tourists and locals alike can schedule a tour of the burial grounds a few days a month in the months of April to November. They also host an annual Halloween tour every Oct. 31. One of the most famous stories about Westminster Hall includes the iconic Poe Toaster, a person who started an eerie tradition after Edgar Allan Poe died. Watch the video to find out about this tradition.
People have claimed to see things and experience things on tours down in the catacombs, according to Marshall. When they do experience or see an apparition, they all describe a man in old military dress, which Marshall can only guess as Sam Smith, who served as the U.S. Senator from Maryland for a number of years. Marshall says even ghost hunters that have come to Westminster Hall can feel the paranormal energy. Westminster Hall was even featured on a 2001 episode of “Scariest Places on Earth“ a paranormal activity television series.
Not only are these graveyards a must-see attraction for any tourist or local, they hold a big part of Baltimore history in their lands. These graveyards are the final resting places for some of the most influential and important people in Maryland. Be sure to make any of these graveyards the next stop when visiting downtown Baltimore.