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Mount Moriah Cemetery, Abandoned

Mount Moriah Cemetery, incorporated in 1855, originally occupied 54 acres in southwest
Philadelphia, along Cobbs Creek. It boasted an ornate Romanesque entrance and
gatehouse built of brownstone. Noted Philadelphia architect Stephen D. Button
(1813-1897) designed this structure.

Mount Moriah was among a number of cemeteries established along the "rural ideal" in vogue
at that time. Philadelphia was a booming city, and many of its older, smaller urban graveyards,
located in city blocks and alongside churches, stood in the way of development. The concept of
large pastoral cemeteries originated in Paris, France, and this concept was brought to Philadelphia
in 1836. A spate of new cemeteries, including Mount Moriah, followed and put the bucolic rural
cemetery within the grasp of much of Philadelphia's middle class.

Over time, Mount Moriah grew to up to 380 acres, spanning Cobbs Creek into neighboring
Delaware County. The cemetery's large size made it the resting place for over 80,000 citizens,
whether famous or ordinary. The scale of the cemetery also enabled churches, institutions and
fraternal organizations to establish their own subsections within its bounds.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Mount Moriah Cemetery held a notable
place among Philadelphia's grand rural cemeteries. Easily accessible by streetcar, it was a
popular public destination for remembrance or just a quiet retreat along the hillsides down to
Cobbs Creek.

Mount Moriah has had its moments in the historical spotlight. Betsy Ross, Philadelphia's beloved
seamstress of the first American flag, died in 1836, and in 1856 the remains of Ross and her later
husband John Claypoole were moved from the Free Quaker Burying Ground in Old Philadelphia to
Mount Moriah. In the run-up to Philadelphia's celebration of the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial, the remains of
Ross and Claypoole were to be moved again, this time to the historic Betsy Ross House. Remains were not
found at the monument at Mount Moriah, though, and remains found elsewhere in the same lot, believed
to be those of Ross and Claypoole, were relocated to the Betsy Ross House, thus creating still-lingering doubts.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, Mount Moriah and many other cemeteries of Philadelphia
became victims of neglect. Suburban cemeteries replaced them in popularity, and the economics of
perpetual care in the face of dwindling new business took its toll, aided by vandalism, dumping and theft.
Sadly, even though Mount Moriah Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and is on the Philadelphia Register
of Historic Places, its fate is still in limbo. It doesn't help matters that it's located in a lower-income neighborhood
with a high crime-rate and hoards of homeless.

Mount Moriah Cemetery was placed on Preservation Pennsylvania's Most Endangered Historic Properties
List in 2004 and on The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia's Endangered Properties List in 2005.

Over 5,000 war veterans from the Civil War-onward are buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery. A ten-acre
"Naval Asylum Plot" within the cemetery was purchased in 1864 as a burial site for residents of the Naval
Asylum, later known as the Naval Home, and remained in use until 1976; the Department of Veterans
Affairs Plot holds over 2,000 burials and is maintained by the National Cemetery Administration unit out
of the Beverly National Cemetery in Burlington County, New Jersey. The Civil War Soldier's Plot, containing
over 400 burials, holds Civil War veterans.

Fraternal Organizations known to have plots within Mount Moriah Cemetery include the Masons
(Keystone Chapter No. 175), Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and American Mechanics.
Ten church cemeteries in Philadelphia also had their remains removed and placed in Mount Moriah
to further development of the former graveyards.

For more information on this historic cemetery, please visit the official preservation website here.

To contact Abandoned But Not Forgotten please e-mail us at with any questions or submissions you may want to contribute to the site.

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