Cemetery Architecture at Bellefontaine Cemetery

Bellefontaine Cemetery (established in 1849) and the Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery (established in 1857) in St. Louis, Missouri are adjacent burial grounds, which have numerous historic and extravagant tombstones and mausoleums. They are the necropolis for a number of prominent local and state politicians, as well as soldiers of the American Civil War.

Founders planned Bellefontaine Cemetery to make room for development in the business area before the cholera epidemic of 1849. That event made it more critical for the city to have room for burials. It was not until later that doctors understood the relation between the epidemics and water supplies, but the residents benefited by moving burials away from the river, which might have become infected by water leaching past the remains of infected people. The original St. Louis cemetery was by the Old Cathedral in Downtown St. Louis near the Mississippi River. Bodies from that cemetery (including that of city co-founder Auguste Chouteau) were moved to Bellefontaine.

Bellefontaine Cemetery at 4947 W Florissant, St. Louis, is the burial ground for prominent pioneers to the West. It was founded in 1849 by a group of prominent men in the city, led by banker and former mayorWilliam McPherson. He realized the cemeteries on Jefferson Street would have to be abandoned to allow for the city’s westward growth. They purchased 138 acres of the Hempstead Farm on the former military road to Fort Bellefontaine; the cemetery was named after it. The founders hired Almerin Hotchkiss as landscape architect from Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York to design and maintain the grounds. He designed most of the roadways and landscaping, and directed cemetery operation as Superintendent for decades. Before 1900, additional purchases of land were made, to total 314 acres, so the cemetery would have room for growth.

In June 1849 the city was hit by a cholera epidemic, and by August about 10 percent of the population had perished – 4500 people. Many were buried at Bellefontaine in its early state.

The cemetery was the resting place for several victims of the 1855 railway accident known as the Gasconade Bridge train disaster. Also buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery are a number of the famous Busch and Lemp family of brewers.

The cemetery contains over 14 miles of paved roads, a section with several dozen mausolea (“mausoleum city”), and a row of very tall obelisk monuments, most with elaborate bases.

Photos of the mausoleums are Wainwright, Lemp, William Nolker, Adolphus Busch, A D Brown, James Louis Westlake

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