Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, Baltimore
Today, this "who's who" of early Baltimore is overshadowed by the later presence of the promising writer, poet and author Edgar Allan Poe, who was buried here in October 1849, following his sudden and mysterious death after being found on the street near East Lombard Street in a sick and semi-conscious state wearing unfamiliar clothes. Poe was taken to the Church Home and Infirmary on Broadway (between East Fayette and Baltimore Streets on "Washington Hill"), where he died four days later. He was interred in the old Western Burying Grounds of the First Presbyterian Church. Sometime later, a small stone was erected at the plot in the southeastern corner of the cemetery, through the efforts of his relative Neilson Poe.
In July 1852, Westminster Presbyterian Church was erected overtop the graveyard, its brick piers straddling gravestones and burial vaults to create what later Baltimoreans referred to as the "catacombs." For years, it was thought that the Gothic Revival-style Westminster Presbyterian Church was built in response to a new city ordinance prohibiting cemeteries that were not adjacent to a religious structure. Research in the early 1980s by historian Michael Franch found no such ordinance—and revealed a more complex motive: The congregation hoped that the new expansion church would serve Baltimore's growing "West End"—new churches were then springing up in every corner of the city in response to a dramatic increase in population—and provide protection to an aging, old-fashioned, 18th Century-style "burying ground" that few saw as an appropriate resting place for the more up-to-date 19th Century.
The entire site is properly illuminated, and of course, in Poe style, the best time to visit is after dark.
Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Baltimore. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.
Westminster Hall and Burying Ground on Map
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