A cemetery is not usually top of your list for sight seeing while on vacation. However, we stumbled upon Lafayette Cemetery while strolling through the Garden District in New Orleans and found it to be quite fascinating. Named after what was once known as the City of Lafayette, the cemetery dates back to 1833. 613 of the people buried at Lafayette passed from yellow fever in 1847. In 1853 yellow fever took the lives of 8000 people and many of their bodies were left at the front gates of Lafayette Cemetery. Located in the heart of the Garden District at 1416-1498 Washington Avenue, some of the mausoleums date back to the 19th century. This will go down on my list of “firsts”. I had never seen a mausoleum in person. Mausoleums are above-ground graves in areas which typically flood or are below sea level.
The cemetery consist of 500 wall vaults which have been sealed.
Since we stumbled upon the cemetery, we toured it ourselves without a guide. There are guides within the cemetery for a fee of $5.00. They walk around announcing when the tour will begin. There were also several organized tour groups within the cemetery. It was very interesting to walk around and look at the dates on the tombstones. I was astonished at how many people are buried in the same tomb. There are quite a few which are crumbling and decrepit, while others are robust, made of granite and marble. Use caution as the walkways are broken, raised and very easy to trip over.
Many of the tombs list the cause of death such as yellow fever, apoplexy, and even rare instances of being struck by lightening. The cemetery includes veterans from the Civil War and French Foreign Legion. Brigadier General Harry T. Hays of the Confederate Army is buried at Lafayette. One of the tombs features Judge Ferguson of the Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate-but-equal” case. The cemetery represents immigrants from 25 different countries and natives of 26 states.
You may have seen some of the Lafayette mausoleums in movies filmed in New Orleans such as The Witching Hour, Memnoch the Devil, Interview with a Vampire, Double Jeopardy in 1999 and Dracula 2000. LeAnn Rimes and the New Kids on the Block filmed music videos in the cemetery.
Sadly, many of the tombs were destroyed by vandalism and have since been restored and preserved.
There are about 1,100 family tombs and more than 7,000 people buried in Lafayette I, a single city block.
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 2:30 pm
Saturday closes at noon
Closed most major holidays