While Savannah is home to some old haunts and truly terrifying tales, its cemeteries are as beautiful as they are historic. If you’re planning on traveling to Savannah this fall, be sure to visit one of the city’s municipal cemeteries to enjoy their relaxing scenery and rich history.
Just three miles from Downtown Savannah along Wilmington River, Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the oldest and most well-known cemeteries in Georgia. Spanning 160 acres, it’s one of the most photographed cemeteries in the world, and with one stroll past beautiful greenery, centuries-old oak trees and intricate statuary, you’ll know why. Featured on the cover of John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” the cemetery is home to other notable gravesites include American songwriter Johnny Mercer, poet Conrad Aiken, and little Gracie Watson, a six-year-old girl who died of pneumonia and was commemorated with a picturesque, true-to-life statue.
Open to the public year-round from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the Bonaventure Historical Society offers free guided tours on the second weekend of every month or self-guided tours through a mobile app. If desired, other tour companies offer paid tours that can be scheduled any day of the week.
Have an adventure in Bonaventure Cemetery
Colonial Park Cemetery
If you venture to the heart of Savannah’s historic district, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Colonial Park Cemetery. The city’s oldest municipal cemetery, dating back to 1750, this six-acre park is home to over 9,000 graves and a thousand more tales of the past. During the American Civil War, several hundred Union soldiers occupying Savannah took shelter here, turning graves into campsites and vandalizing the headstones in the night. The cemetery is also known for its rear wall, where dozens of headstones were hung to make room for city park pathways. Notable gravesites include early Georgia governors, nearly 700 victims of Savannah’s 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic and that of Button Gwinnett who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Colonial Park Cemetery is open to pedestrians every day of the week from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM March-November and 8:00 to 5:00 PM the rest of the year. Admission is free, but a number of private companies offer paid tours in and around the cemetery. Ghost tours are also available, though these don’t typically enter the cemetery itself.
Step into Colonial Park Cemetery’s past
Laurel Grove Cemeteries
On the west side of Savannah lies Laurel Grove Cemetery, featuring 160 acres that tell a history that haunts us today. Previously a rice field owned by Springfield Plantation, the cemetery was segregated by race, with whites resting in the north section, and slaves and freed black persons resting in the south. The 67-acre northern section is well-known for its beautiful Victorian statuary, mausoleums and ironwork. Notable graves include that of Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low, “Waving Girl” Florence Martus, and a number of Civil War graves. The southern section initially only spanned 15 acres, but has since been expanded to 90. It is one of the nation’s oldest black cemeteries still in use and was not as well-preserved and maintained as its northern counterpart. This was true up until the mid 1900s, when preservation efforts by local activist W.W. Law set a standard for how the cemetery was to be treated. His remains were interred here after his death in 2002. Other notable gravesites include Reverend Andrew Bryan, founder of the First African Baptist Church, and Jane Deveaux, who conducted secret schooling for black children before it was legal to do so.
The Laurel Grove Cemetery is open to visitors (and leashed pets) seven days a week from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The site is a stop for a number of paid tours through private companies, if you’re interested in learning more about the cemeteries and the people interred there.
Take stroll through history
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