New Orleans’ longest standing burial ground, Saint Louis Cemetery #1, is located just a few blocks away from the boisterous and colorful streets of the French Quarter. After a fire in 1788 that triggered remodeling of the city, the resting ground was constructed in order to replace St. Peter Cemetery which no longer exists in New Orleans. The web of tombs sits quietly on Basin Street at the corner of Saint Louis Street. Burials do still occur in the cemetery; however the property was originally built for prominent families, particular of Creole decent, as a final resting place. In its original design, the cemetery was divided into two distinct sections. The first section was devoted to those of the Catholic faith while the additional section was meant for non-Catholic (e.g.: Protestant) burials.
Unlike traditional cemeteries found in the U.S., Saint Louis Cemetery #1 houses the dead in mausoleums and crypts. Since New Orleans is built upon swamplands, it made traditional underground burials impossible. Burials, therefore, had to take place above ground creating a unique and elaborate network that forms Louisiana’s Cities of the Dead.
Within the tombs of Saint Louis Cemetery #1 exists the final resting place to some of New Orleans most famous and infamous characters. Of the most noteworthy individuals is Marie Laveau, the renowned Voodoo priestess. She is said to be buried here entombed within the Glapion crypt. Additionally, it is believed that scandalous slave owner Delphine LaLauire also found her final resting place here.
As of 2015 the owners of the grounds, the Roman Catholic Diocese of New Orleans, barred entrance to the general public due to the rise of vandalism and defacing of the tombs. Recently, however, the grounds were reopened to local tourism groups. The grounds can once again host public viewings with the accompaniment of any of the numerous tour companies based in New Orleans. The NOLA Cities of the Dead remain alive and thriving.