Famous Graves and Legends
Woodland offers you a nice burial plot
Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2003 at 12:00 am
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When West Philadelphia was a suburban paradise in the 18th century, affluent city dwellers built their country estates on the left bank of the Schulykill. Along with their gargantuan mansions and sprawling properties, they also established areas to bury their dead loved ones. Many score ago, one of the more prestigious locations for such internment became the Woodlands, just a few blocks south of Penn's current campus.
Certain famous people from this neck of the woods were born and raised, and others died and got saved. Notable historical figures whose corpses lie six feet underground at the Woodlands range from the painter Thomas Eakins and Drexel University founder Anthony Drexel to the architect Wilson Eyre and Tatsui Baba, the founder of the Japanese Democratic Liberal Party. Currently, the cemetery holds about 30,000 dead and grows by an average of merely one soul per week. As an arboretum, the grounds seem relatively tranquil, and the plots remain well-preserved. Even today, the vast majority of the headstones are perched atop locals who wished to find eternal peace in close proximity to their families.
The cemetery contains a number of exotic plants that ring the neo-classical Federal style mansion at the center of the 45-acre estate. With nearly three hundred years of dead people, the graveyard's most frequent contemporary visitors are joggers and bikers who enjoy burning calories alongside family mausoleums affixed with impressive aristocratic names. Woodlands manager Sheree Copper insists that no cults have attempted to raise the famous dead people or conduct seances. "If they're here, I haven't seen them," says Cooper, who is also continually perplexed by the number of bizarre West Philadelphians who arrive daily at the burial grounds to take photographs of the headstones. Strangely enough, the mansion has recently hosted a number of weddings. Oral legend dictates that the former owner of the house, William Hamilton, threw annual Halloween parties in his living room. Imagine the possibilities of donning the morbid costumes of the grim reaper or Count Dracula for a thumping party in the epicenter of a graveyard.
If you like history and derive pleasure from standing above dead people, the Woodlands will likely strike your fancy. You might even consider snatching up a few burial plots in case you seek eternal serenity next to your alma mater.

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