Laurel Hill: The Hot Spots and Storied Plots Tours

It’s summer, and that means we’re offering our awesome “Hot Spots and Storied Plots” tours more frequently than usual. During the months of June, July, and August, you can catch a Hot Spots tour EVERY Friday, or on the second Saturday of each month. With all these extra dates, we hope you’ll find a chance to come check out one of our favorite events.

What is the Hot Spots and Storied Plots Tour?

DSC_1282
A tour group in front of the Old Mortality sculpture grouping.

If you’re new to the cemetery, this is the best way to get acquainted. The Hot Spots tours are general interest tours which take visitors around to some of our most famous monuments and permanent residents. Your tour guide will give you the inside scoop on the stories and history behind each site. It’s a must-see for fans of history, taphophiles, Civil War buffs, Philly residents, and curious visitors.

The walking tour lasts between 90 minutes and two hours, so remember your sunscreen, hats, and water bottles (insect repellent can’t hurt either). All tours depart from our gatehouse at 3822 Ridge Avenue, but where you go from there will be different every time!

One of the best things about the Hot Spots tours is how each tour guide brings something new to the table. Perhaps the first time you take the tour, you get a lot of information on Philly’s captains of industry, but the second time you take it, you find out a lot about 19th century medicine. There are so many paths to follow, and no two Hot Spots tours are the same.

Okay, So What Are Some of the Hot Spots?

Let’s begin with some of our most famous and photographed monuments.

The Warner Monument

Warner

The Warner lot is full of amazing detail, but the eye is immediately drawn to the memorial for William Warner. This scene depicts an angel or other heavenly entity opening William’s sarcophagus and allowing his winged soul to escape and claim its eternal reward. Alexander Milne Calder carved this monument. You may recognize his work from high atop Philadelphia’s City Hall, as he carved the likeness of William Penn. Some see a resemblance between Billy Penn and the angel.

Al_Milne_Calder_w_Billy
From Wikipedia

What do the other monuments on the lot look like? How did the Warner family get the money to pay for such elaborate carvings? Maybe you’ll find out on a tour!

“Aspiration”

Berwind

This gorgeous sculpture titled “Aspiration,” was sculpted by Harriet Frishmuth to memorialize the Berwind family. Frishmuth was an accomplished sculptor who studied under Rodin, and whose works are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. She used dancers as models for many of her works, and it’s very likely that she did so here. To get the true feel for the detail and scale of this monument, you simply have to see it in person.

The Silent Sentry

Silent Sentry

This 700 pound bronze statue stands proudly in Laurel Hill today, but the story of how he got here involves a break-in, a scrap yard, and a lot of concerned volunteers. What we know for sure is that The Silent Sentry used to stand in Mount Moriah Cemetery (located in southwest Philadelphia and Yeadon), that it was stolen from that cemetery and smuggled across the river to Camden, and that an alert scrap yard worker blew the whistle. You just might hear the rest of the story on a Hot Spots tour.

The Patterson Lion

Patterson

This monument to General Robert Peterson is considered one of the “bookends” to the stunning Millionaire’s Row section of Laurel Hill. General Patterson served in three different wars: The War of 1812, the Mexican American War, and the Civil War. If that seems like a long time to be in military service, you’re right. You can hear the stories of his various victories and defeats, and of course, get a much better sense of the majesty of his monument when you get up close and personal.

William James Mullen

Mullen

This is the final resting place of William James Mullen, a prison reformer. Pictured here is Moyamensing Prison with the gates smashed open, broken chains on the ground, a weeping woman, and the angel Gabriel standing triumphant atop it all. There are things to see (and read!) all the way around this monument. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this piece is that Mullen commissioned his grave marker well before his death, and exhibited it at the Centennial Celebration of 1876. Today, it’s on permanent display in Laurel Hill’s South Section.

Now, let’s briefly introduce you to some of our most famous residents…

General George Gordon Meade

General George Meade_0

Civil War Buffs come from all over to see the final resting place of the victor of Gettysburg. General Meade defeated Robert E. Lee in a small, and until then, relatively unknown Pennsylvania town, effectively winning the Civil War. Some feel that Meade should have forced a surrender right then and there. Indeed, Ulysses S. Grant seemed to feel that way, since Meade wasn’t invited to Appomattox. To hear the whole story, definitely check out one of our Hot Spots tours, or one of several Civil War-focused tours we offer throughout the year.

Harry Kalas

Harry

The voice of the Phillies, himself. Harry Kalas stepped up to the plate to be the announcer for the Phillies in 1971, and did not leave that post until the day he died. (We mean that literally. He died of a heart attack in the announcer’s booth at a Phillies/Nationals game.) He was there to call both World Series wins – 1980 and 2008 – and would sing his famous rendition of “High Hopes” whenever the team won a championship. His grave sports sod from Citizen’s Bank Park, and chairs from Veteran’s Stadium. Yes, you’re very much encouraged to have a seat, and to take all the photos you want!

Frank Furness

Frank Furness
Photo from Wikipedia

Famous architect Frank Furness is known for designing the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Fisher Fine Arts Library at Penn. He used an eclectic medieval style of architecture which unfortunately fell out of style for a time. This led to many of his buildings being demolished. Luckily we still have a few notable examples left today.

“Adrian Balboa”

Adrian
Photo from Wikipedia

Yes, Adrian Balboa is a fictional character, and the actress who portrayed her, Talia Shire, is still very much alive. But to date, three Rocky films have been shot at Laurel Hill Cemetery, and her “prop” headstone has remained here in our care. During the filming of Rocky Balboa, the crew had intended to use a Styrofoam stand-in, but when Sylvester Stallone saw it, he said it looked terrible. Thus, this stone monument was commissioned. Fans of Rocky are invited to come take their pictures next to Adrian’s headstone, and in the filming location of “Creed.”

Mary Ann Lee

Ballerinas at Lee Gravesite.jpg

Credited with being one of America’s first professional ballet dancers, Mary Ann Lee was a stage performer from a young age. Acting in everything from farcical comedies, to burlesque shows, Mary Ann left the US briefly to study ballet in Paris. She starred in the very first production of Giselle in America, and was showered with flowers after her performance.

How Much Do the Tours Cost?

The Hot Spots and Storied Plots tours are our most affordable tour. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors, and $9 for Laurel Hill members.

When Are the Next Tours Happening?

Here’s a list of upcoming Hot Spots tours, with links to tickets:

 

We hope your summer vacation plans bring you to Laurel Hill on one of these dates.

To stay up to date on the more than 100 annual events at Laurel Hill, be sure to sign up for our newsletter!

 

 

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