Update, Oct. 16: This event has sold out, but you can still submit your questions below.
When Jennie Benford gives tours of Homewood Cemetery, there are a few questions that always come up.
Is the cemetery full? Do you have to be rich to be buried there? Why is it called Homewood if it’s not in Homewood? The answers: It’s half full, no, and the land was part of Judge William Wilkins’ estate named Homewood.
On Oct. 27, you’ll have the chance to ask your own questions, as we here at The Incline bring Peculiar Pittsburgh to life on a tour of Homewood Cemetery.
Readers like you inspired us to host this gathering by asking us (frequently) to find answers about the cemetery that’s actually in Point Breeze. Some of the questions you’ve already sent us:
- Who are the famous residents of Homewood Cemetery?
- Are there Muslim and Chinese sections at the cemetery?
- Is Henry Clay Frick buried in Homewood Cemetery behind a brass fence?
Instead of just writing an article about what we found, we decided to partner with Homewood Cemetery for a tour to reveal your answers — and more. Bring more questions on the day of our tour, or submit your questions here:
So what else should you know before joining us on this tour? Homewood Cemetery opened in 1878 and was part of the America’s rural cemetery movement — specifically the second wave of that movement, said Benford, the director of programming for the Homewood Cemetery Historical Fund. The second-wave “landscape is much more open … designed for beauty and for maintenance,” including to accommodate a new machine — the lawn mower.
It was part of the industrialization of America and as towns turned into cities, it became clear that there wasn’t space for the dead bodies, she said. The people who started cemeteries saw it as a civic duty, much like opening hospitals and orphanages. They also wanted people who died to be in nature, because they believed it was closer to God. That’s why cemeteries have a park-like setting, Benford said, adding that in most cities, including Pittsburgh, they pre-date public parks by about 50 years.
Benford said when she leads tours, people often tell her, “I know it’s weird, but I love cemeteries.” Her response: “They aren’t weird. They are just gullible. The cemetery was designed for them to like it.”