Because New Orleans was built on a swamp, the city buries its dead above ground in elaborate crypts and mausoleums. The cemeteries, sometimes called “Cities of the Dead,” resemble little villages and are embellished with sculptures and other decorative artwork.
St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1 and No. 2 are two of the most famous, and both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A number of notable persons are buried in these cemeteries, including musicians, war heroes, the famous “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau, and Ernest “Dutch” Morial, the first African American mayor of New Orleans.
St. Louis No. 1 opened in 1789, making it the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. No. 2 opened in 1823. Also buried in St. Louis No. 1 is Homer Plessy, the African American arrested for refusing to move from the “whites only” section of a Louisiana rail car. His arrest led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Plessy v. Ferguson) in 1896 that supported states’ rights to forcibly segregate people of different races. The dissenting opinion was adopted a half-century later in Brown v. Board of Education.
St. Louis No. 1 is located on Basin St. between Conti and St. Louis Streets
St. Louis No. 2 is located on N. Claiborne Ave. between Iberville and St. Louis Streets.