Saturday, February 5, 2011

NOLA’s Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery, established 1833, was our last stop on a December 2010 self-guided walking tour of the New Orleans’ Garden District. As the sun neared the western horizon, we explored one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.

The cemetery is located on Washington Avenue between Prytania and Coliseum streets. After we had our coffee and tea break at Still Perkin’ in the Rink, it was just a short walk to the cemetery entrance on Washington.

Water-table levels are commonly cited as the reason for the custom of burial in the aboveground vaults that are iconic New Orleans images. According to a New Orleans historian at a conference I attended at Tulane University years ago, the aboveground burial choice is more cultural than logistical, a result of French and Spanish influence.

Many of the crypts that we saw are in poor repair. Some are being restored. All are custodians of stories from the past.

Narrow avenue of aboveground tombs with wall vaults visible at the end of the corridor

Grassy lanes and more spacious multi-vault, aboveground tombs

This example of a society tomb, with multiple vaults similar to a mausoleum, was for members of the Jefferson Fire Company No. 22.

Fire engine detail

Philanthropy entombed, another example of a society tomb

Cross of stone

Cross of wrought iron

A sasanqua camellia contributes its living color to our visit of one of New Orleans' "cities of the dead"


  1. Ohhhhhh. One of my favorite cities in the world. I loved the tombs, history and emotion live there. Ah, you've sparked sweet memories!

  2. How very interesting. Really! I've always been rather fascinated with the New Orleans cemetaries. The firehouse one is do interesting, I wonder...would the firemen be buried there, instead of with their famalies? How would that work?

  3. i have read so much about their cemeterys but have never seen them, not even in movies or photos. thanks for sharing you walk, these are very good.

  4. Thos are tremendous crypts, haven't seen anything like that in Scotland. And I love the cross of wrought iron.

  5. Ginny - Good question. Nothing I turned up in preparing the cemetery post covered the question of whether family members were also buried in society tombs. Will be on the lookout for info. There will probably me more NOLA visits in our future; and in the past, answers to my NOLA questions have sometimes come in unexpected circumstances in seemingly unrelated venues!