Address: 4734 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15210
Hours: January April 7AM – 5PM
May 7AM – 8PM
June – August 7AM – 7PM
September – December 7AM – 5PM
Transportation: Bus, car (street parking), bike, and walking
Access: Outdoors, handicap accessible
Stretching 300 acres between the neighborhoods of Lawrenceville and Bloomfield are the sprawling grounds of the Allegheny Cemetery. Since its first interment in 1845, this expanse of rolling hills, ponds, and trees has become the final resting place of over 124,000 people.
While the prescribed purpose for cemeteries is burial and memorial to those who have passed, it would be remiss to neglect the cemetery’s natural beauty. Some may balk at the idea of visiting a cemetery for any purpose other than mourning, for fear of encroaching on the feelings of others or profaning such an important space in their lives; however, the Allegheny Cemetery is actually a National Historic Landmark and a surprisingly calm and pastoral retreat from the bustling industrial city of Pittsburgh. The cemetery also plays host to a number of interesting events, including a Memorial Day Parade and “Doo Dah Days,” a celebration of Stephen C. Foster, the famed Pittsburgh composer who was interred at the cemetery in 1864.
Before the pandemic, the cemetery offered guided walking tours every month of the year for a suggested donation o f$10 per person for contributions to the maintenance of the historic site through the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association. Currently, the cemetery is not offering tours at this time; however, self-guided tours are available from the cemetery's website.
Because the Allegheny Cemetery is so extensive, tours do not cover its grounds fully, leaving a number of the unseen monuments to be discovered by the many visitors who find themselves drawn back to see more of the hidden mysteries which this labyrinthine realm has to offer.
It’s a cold, windy day; December 22, 1826, in Pittsburgh. James S. Negley is born to Jacob Negley and Mary Ann Scott. Not known yet, their son would go on to become an important figure in American History. Let’s fast forward to 1846 for when the story of Pittsburgh’s James S. Negley begins.
When I first walked into the Allegheny Cemetery, I was consumed with the surreal feeling of being in a rural countryside. Suddenly, gone were the city sirens and bustling streets; instead, these were replaced with an eerie silence and land beyond the eye could fathom. Expansive green stretches from all directions surrounded me as I was deep within the Allegheny Cemetery’s 300 acres of land.
It is a cool, brisk November morning as I walk through the Allegheny Cemetery here in Pittsburgh. The memories of loved ones are shared throughout each memorial, as there are numerous bouquets of flowers scattered on headstones across the landscape of the cemetery. The variance in these architectures leaves me in awe. The elaborate memorials, like a silhouette of figure inscribed on a tombstone and tombs that are the size of houses, are fascinating. You can tell that the love for the people of the past still resonates these grounds.
That there exists in the living mind a distinction between the experience of life and conceptions of death is undeniable – and nowhere are the resulting tensions from the interplay of these experiences and conceptions more apparent than in the human construct of the cemetery. The cemetery occupies an in-between space, what Edward Soja might term a “thirdspace”, and is comprised of an amalgamation of private plots collected into a semi-public space, where the deceased may be visited by their loved ones in their rest, yet can also be toured by strangers on whim.
The Allegheny Cemetery was incorporated in 1844 and is the sixth oldest rural cemetery in North America. It resides between the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Bloomfield and Lawrenceville on the east side of the city. The cemetery currently sits on 300 acres of rolling hills, trees, wildlife and two ponds. Winding paths lead patrons through the final resting places of over 124,000 people in a way that doesn’t seem like the morbid cemeteries in pop culture.