Basin at St. Louis Street
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Save our Cemeteries
St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the oldest and most famous. It was opened in 1789, replacing the city’s older St. Peter Cemetery (no longer in existence) as the main burial ground when the city was redesigned after a fire in 1788.
It is 8 blocks from the Mississippi River, on the north side of Basin Street, one block beyond the inland border of the French Quarter. It borders the Iberville housing project that was built over what was formerly Storyville. It has been in continuous use since its foundation. The nonprofit group Save Our Cemeteries and various commercial businesses offer tours for a fee.
Famous New Orleanians buried in St. Louis #1 include Etienne de Boré – wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry and the first mayor of New Orleans, Homer Plessy – the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights, and Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial – the first African-American Mayor of New Orleans.
The renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is believed to be interred in the Glapion family crypt. Other notable New Orleanians here include Bernard de Marigny – the French-Creole playboy who brought the game of craps to the United States, Barthelemy Lafon – the architect and surveyor who allegedly became one of Jean Lafitte’s pirates, and Paul Morphy, one of the earliest world champions of chess. Delphine LaLaurie is also believed to lay in rest here.
The cemetery spans just one square block, but is the resting place of over 100,000 dead.
Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 is located at the corner of St. Louis Street and Basin Street in New Orleans, Louisiana (Orleans Parish). It is owned and maintained by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The coordinates are 29° 57′ 56.3″ N, 90° 4′ 28″ W.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was founded in 1789, and it is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Located at the corners of St. Louis and Basin streets. At one time the cemetery was much larger (300 square feet) but today it is much smaller due to development around it. Like most cemeteries in New Orleans, most of the graves are above ground tombs or wall vaults.
Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 was listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It just recently (March 2004) benefited from a big restoration project.
Saint Louis Cemetery is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of Marie Laveau, a Voodoo priestess, and her daughter…both are buried in this cemetery. Supposedly they return to life each St. John’s Eve and lead their faithful voodoo practitioners in a wild ceremony/orgy. The area in front of her grave is filled with all sorts of gifts left by cemetery visitors – beads, herbs, bricks wrapped in foil, dried beans, bones, etc. Also, her tomb is covered in small x’s or crosses…people draw them on the tomb for luck. It’s also said that if you turn around three times, either clockwise or counter clockwise, in front of her tomb and then knock on it three times your wish will be granted.
St Louis #1 is the closest cemetery to the French Quarter and the most popular one for tourists to visit. A number of organizations run tours. If you are considering taking a tour, use the Save our Cemeteries group. The price is right ($8) and the group’s cause is certainly more noble then the for-profit enterprises.