Rest in Pieces: Philadelphia's Lost Cemeteries

Wagner Free Institute of Science
Rest in Pieces: Philadelphia's Lost Cemeteries

Join us for an illustrated presentation by writer and historian Thomas H. Keels.

From Philadelphia's founding, the need to venerate the city's dead has battled with the need to provide its living with open space. "Rest in Pieces: Philadelphia's Lost Cemeteries" tracks how the city's development has caused the destruction of many historic burial grounds. Monument Cemetery, the second rural cemetery in Philadelphia, was founded in 1837 on North Broad Street, across from Temple University. In the 1950s, it fell victim to the school's need for parking lots. Thousands of those interred there were transferred to a mass grave in the suburbs. Their monuments were dumped into the Delaware River, where they are still visible today.

Other vanished cemeteries include Glenwood at Ridge Avenue and 27th Street, which gave way to the Philadelphia Housing Authority's first housing project in the 1930s; Odd Fellows at Diamond and 24th Streets, displaced for the Raymond Rosen towers; and Franklin Cemetery in Kensington, whose 8,000 bodies disappeared in the 1940s as part of a political swindle gone bad. "Rest in Pieces: Philadelphia's Lost Cemeteries" provides an overview of the life and death of urban cemeteries, and the ways in which Philadelphians have honored and dishonored their ancestors.

Thomas H. Keels is author of four books on the history of Philadelphia, including Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries, the first visual history of the city's burial places, and Forgotten Philadelphia: Lost Architecture of the Quaker City. Mr. Keels has been a tour guide at Laurel Hill, Philadelphia's premier Victorian cemetery, for over a decade. He has lectured at the Free Library of Philadelphia, as well as the Union League, and his media appearances include Radio Times, Action News, and Good Day Philadelphia.