Place:Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis (independent city), Missouri, United States

NameBellefontaine Cemetery
Coordinates38.6914°N 90.2303°W
Located inSt. Louis (independent city), Missouri, United States     (1849 - )
Also located inSt. Louis (county), Missouri, United States    

Bellefontaine Cemetery is a nonprofit, non-denominational cemetery and arboretum in St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 1849 as a rural cemetery, Bellefontaine is home to a number of architecturally significant monuments and mausoleums such as the Louis Sullivan-designed Wainwright Tomb, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery contains 314 acres (1.27 km2) of land and over 87,000 graves, including those of William Clark, Adolphus Busch, Thomas Hart Benton, Rush Limbaugh, and William S. Burroughs. Many Union and Confederate soldiers from the American Civil War are buried at Bellefontaine, as well as numerous local and state politicians. About 100 new burials take place each year.


On March 7, 1849, banker William McPherson and lawyer John Fletcher Darby assembled a group of some of St. Louis's most prominent citizens to found the "Rural Cemetery Association of St. Louis". This association sought to respond to the needs of a rapidly growing St. Louis by establishing a new cemetery several miles outside city limits. St. Louis was experiencing exponential population growth during this time and city leaders thought that the existing graveyards, which were mostly concentrated along Jefferson Avenue near the city center, were an impediment to urban development. Many were also convinced that city cemeteries represented a public health hazard (see miasma theory). These problems were compounded during the summer of 1849, when a massive cholera epidemic swept through St. Louis and claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people. With existing cemeteries running out of space to expand, and with many residents fearing that fumes from nearby cemeteries could cause them to fall ill en masse once again, this epidemic further underscored the need for a new rural cemetery for St. Louis.

In 1849, the Rural Cemetery Association purchased the former Hempstead family farm located five miles northwest of the city, with the intent to turn it into a large rural cemetery modeled after Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts. The association that originated the cemetery, named it at first the "Rural Cemetery". The 138-acre Hempstead farm was situated along the road to Fort Bellefontaine, and as a result the Association decided to name its new cemetery after the fort.

Within a few months, the Association had hired landscape architect Almerin Hotchkiss, who helped design Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, to begin drafting and implementing a master plan for Bellefontaine. Hotchkiss went on to serve as superintendent of the cemetery for the next 46 years; he designed most of Bellefontaine's roadways and landscaping, and oversaw maintenance of the grounds. During this time, the cemetery steadily acquired more land so as to provide room for future growth. By 1865, it had reached its present-day size of 314 acres.

The first burial at Bellefontaine Cemetery took place on April 27, 1850, and the official dedication followed several weeks later. Bodies from older graveyards within the city of St. Louis were moved to Bellefontaine, including some from the cemetery by the Old Cathedral near the Mississippi River. Bellefontaine was also the resting place for several victims of the 1855 Gasconade Bridge train disaster, the worst railroad disaster in Missouri history. Also interred at Bellefontaine are members of several notable brewing families, including the Anheusers, Buschs, Lemps, and Griesediecks.

In 1909, the renowned St. Louis architectural firm Eames and Young was commissioned to design a new chapel for the cemetery. The Hotchkiss Chapel, named for the cemetery's first architect, was completely renovated in 2009, and an indoor columbarium was added on to the back. The chapel is currently used for weddings and memorial services. Two new outdoor columbaria have also opened for inurnments; and a "green burial" natural interment section is pending. Cemetery patrons with traditional tastes for family lot group burials and private mausoleums can still obtain these memorialization options at this historic cemetery, which has the largest collection of private (family) mausoleums and sarcophagi in the State of Missouri, in a wide array of architecturally-acclaimed historical styles. Space for traditional casketed/vaulted ground burial exists within Bellefontaine's dedicated grounds for the next 200 years at present rates of usage.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Bellefontaine Cemetery. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


4947 West Florissant Avenue; Bellefontain Cemetery at OpenStreetMap