***UPDATE: Please see the note at the end of the post.
On a natural ridge extending upriver from French Quarter is the oldest New Orleans cemetery, Lafayette No. 1. Covering a small city block, it’s a family graveyard in a residential neighborhood, the beautiful Garden District.
It’s almost directly across the street from the famous, Commanders Palace, touted as the best haute Creole cuisine restaurant in the city . One block from the St. Charles streetcar line, it’s easy to reach. Anyone is welcome to enter and tour groups wend their way through also. Visitors are cautioned to hire guides who are certified and contribute to the cemetery’s upkeep.
Many are drawn to the New Orleans cemetery after reading Anne Rice novels with scenes set there or seeing the movie, Interview with a Vampire.
I found myself walking through on a stormy afternoon. The peals of thunder and distant lightning were a perfect backdrop to the ancient tombs. Was I frightened? Not really, but grateful to glimpse this part of New Orleans history. I do however prefer the company of the living and was happy that a few other tourists were milling about.
Most of the tombs shared a mottled patina gathered from ages standing in the elements. Ferns sprouted from walls, gravestones listed and several were wide open, their gaping shelves empty.
A little history:
Once the land was part of a plantation owned by the Livaudais family, of French heritage. In 1832, Madame Livaudais decided to sell her land and eventually the subdivision was incorporated into the City. With an influx of immigrants from Germany and Italy then others from English, Scottish, Dutch and Scandinavian descent, the city was very diverse and so are its cemeteries. Members from both sides of the Civil War and several African families also are interred in Lafayette No. 1.
Whatever draws you there, Lafayette No.1, the oldest New Orleans cemetery, is worth exploring. It’s a glimpse into a past that lives on, chiseled lovingly into shadowy stone.
***UPDATE: I make every effort to present accurate information in my blog posts but have been informed that the Lafayette No. 1 is not the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. It is however “… the oldest of the seven municipal, city-operated cemeteries in New Orleans,” according to the Save Our Cemeteries website. The St. Louis No.1 is the oldest, that is owned and maintained by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Everything else in the post has been reported as experienced.
If you go:
- Check that the cemetery is open when you want to visit. The New Orleans Online site has times and location information.
- Be careful and don’t let children run free.
- Be respectful. Don’t remove anything from the grave sites.
- Enter on your own or with tour guides who are certified.
Find out more at the historical site Lafayette Cemetery:
- The Bayou Preservation LLC
- The LC Research Project
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse past the gate at Lafayette No. 1. Here’s a pin to share: