West Laurel Cemetery

West Laurel Hill Cemetery

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, receiving vault from Righters Ferry

Belmont Avenue, Bala Cynwyd

When the creation of Fairmount Park impeded the expansion of Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, three large Lower Merion farms nestled between two deep ravines were purchased to create West Laurel Hill Cemetery less than a mile away. Incorporated in 1869, the 200-acre cemetery received its first burial in 1870.

Because the new cemetery’s location was so high above the river, the practice of bringing funerals by steamboat was replaced with the use of funeral trains. The Reading Railroad even created a special siding at its Pencoyd Station to accommodate funeral trains.

In recognition of the many beautiful structures within a striking landscape, West Laurel Hill Cemetery was listed in 1992 on the National Register of Historic Places for its significant architecture, art, and landscape architecture. Horace Trumbauer and Cope & Stewardson are among the noted architects to have built structures here. The cemetery remains one of the largest areas of open space in Lower Merion Township. Catherine Drinker Bowen, Hy Lit, Matthew Simpson, John B. Stetson, and Joseph Widener are among the notable burials here.