Visiting the Dead

Tuesday October 7, 2014

Buch Mausoleum .Crisp October days. It’s the perfect time to take a quiet stroll in a cemetery. Sound macabre? Well, maybe, unless you’re planning to visit Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum.

Established in 1849 on the northern outskirts of St. Louis City, as one of America’s first “cites of the dead” influenced by the new cemetery movement. A movement that saw the final resting place as a destination for the living to reflect and remember loved ones in a dignified, beautiful natural surroundings far form the congestion of the city. Bellefontaine’s founders firmly believed their cemetery would become a major civic, cultural and historical institution that considered a “ community classroom”. The goal was to establish a showplace for fine art, architecture and horticulture.

Bellefontaine today is considered an oasis, containing landscape design stabled by

Almerin Hotchkiss, one of the country’s first landscape architects and Bellefontaine’s first grounds superintendent. His work laid the foundation that would give Bellefontaine its Accredited Level II Arboretum.

While its peaceful 314 acres and majestic funerary art is impressive most visitors come to visit Bellefontaine’s famous and infamous dead. Here is the final resting place for likes of William Clark of Lewis And Clark fame and James Eads, whose iron-clad gunboats helped saver the Union and Mississippi River bridge is still in use today.

Kate Brewington Bennett renown as St. Louis’ most beautiful women died young. Her pale lily-white complexion was achieved from ingesting arsenic. She died of arsenic poisoning at the age of 37.

One of the most visited grave sites are those of St. Louis’ famed beer barons, the Buschs and the Lemps of which three committed suicide to gain admittance to their family tomb.

Each year Bellefontaine hosts Beer Baron Tours covering the brewers unique historic lives, which is accompanied with a beer tasting. Sips, Souls & Strolls tour planned for October 9. Fall wine and hors de oeuvres are hosted at a chapel reception where tales from the crypts of its famous and infamous occupants.

Outside of special events and tour, general visiting hours are 8 a.m to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Free public bus tours, lead by a Master Guide are held on the second Saturday of the month form 10 a.m. to noon. Reservations are required and can be made at 314- 381-0750. If you miss the bus, no worries – Master guide-led walking tours are offered, providing one of the best ways to experience the haunting beauty of Bellefontaine.

Spirited Cemetery Tours

Déja vu Spirit Reunion, Memorial Cemetery, Ste. Genevieve, MO.
October 25, 2014 5:30 – 8 p.m.
A family friendly living history event provides visitors with an intimate look into the lifestyles and happenings in Missouri’s oldest town during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Tour the cemetery via lantern light and chat “face-to-face” with spirits clad in traditional dress and enjoy a hauntingly good time. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children, kids under five are free.

Vintage Voices, Alton Cemetery, Alton Il
Saturdays in October, 1 – 3 p.m.
The annual Vintage Voices heritage program takes visitors for to walk down the shaded paths of the historic Alton Cemetery to meet the men and women who lived in the Alton area during the 19th and early 20th century. Reenactors take position near the gravesite of the person that they have chosen to portray and entertain with first person accounts of their lives. Admission: $12 for adults and $6 for children 6-12.

Guest Blogger Suzanne Corbett contributed to this blog.

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