Mount Moriah Cemetery

Mount Moriah Cemetery

I finally made it to Mount Moriah Cemetery recently, an "abandoned" cemetery located in southwest Philadelphia. I put abandoned in quotes, because like Eastern Cemetery in Kentucky and the Historic Jersey City Cemetery, Mount Moriah was once abandoned but is slowly being cleaned up and maintained by a group of volunteers. 

Mount Moriah was established in 1855 and encompasses 380 acres, making it the largest cemetery in Pennsylvania. The cemetery is separated into two sections by Cobbs Creek, and sits in two different counties. It was privately owned until the last known member of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association died, and there has been confusion about who actually owns the cemetery since—it officially closed its gates in 2011.

At first glance, Mount Moriah doesn't even appear abandoned. A large portion of it has been cleared and mowed, and it looks like any other sprawling cemetery. But bordering the cleared sections are pockets of overgrown brush and weeds, studded with headstones—I'm guessing the whole cemetery looked like this before the volunteers stepped in. 

I have been trying to get to Mount Moriah ever since my soul-sister-in-creep, Kaylah of The Dainty Squid, posted about it, but I could never get someone to go with me. I had heard that it was in a not-so-great neighborhood (not uncommon for an abandoned place), and I wasn't thrilled to have to go alone. But I recently had a weekday off for Passover and the weather was beautiful, so I hopped on a train (and then another train) headed for Philadelphia. This is where I apologize to my dad, for assuring him recently that I never go into sketchy, abandoned places by myself—I amend that statement to almost never. 

I opted to take regional trains (Penn Staion > Trenton, Trenton > Philly) instead of a more direct (and more expensive) Amtrak train. Mount Moriah is located about four miles from the 30th Street train station, and because I didn't have a car I had to figure out how to actually get to Mount Moriah after I arrived in Philly. 

I generally have no problems taking solo adventures—and sometimes I actually prefer to be alone—but my anxieties and indecisive tendencies seem to flourish when left unchecked by another person. My first instinct was to take Uber to the cemetery, but then I began to worry about where to get dropped off and even the judgement of my driver when he/she realized that my destination was an abandoned cemetery (which feels so dumb to admit). Then I decided to take the light rail, but couldn't find the station. Then I thought I'd take the streetcar—which is sort of an underground bus?—but I couldn't figure out how to pay, and I knew I didn't have exact change. So, after way too much time sort of wandering in circles, arguing with myself and wondering why I was so strange, I ended up taking Uber. 

I do want to mention that as we were driving, the neighborhood kept getting sketchier and sketchier, to the point where I considered asking my driver to take me back to Philly proper. As we approached the cemetery, I noticed that the front gates were unlocked and open, and asked my driver to drop me out front. I basically ran into the cemetery, and instantly felt better—I'm so glad that I didn't prematurely bail. 

There are a few military sections that have been meticulously maintained, and seeing row after row of identical stones (including several just marked "Unknown") like a mini-Arlington is really sobering. Mount Moriah was unlike any other cemetery I've visited, but there were still a few things that stood out: a full-sized tree growing out of the base of a broken monument, the marker that just said "orphanage," and a path that was made entirely out of broken headstones. 

Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery is a "nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Mount Moriah Cemetery by honoring the memory of those interred here through community engagement, education, historic research, and restoration." I'm definitely appreciative of these volunteer groups that have stepped in to care for their neglected neighborhood cemeteries—a largely thankless and monumental task—but I'm also glad that I got see Mount Moriah before it was entirely restored to its former glory.


Mount Moriah Cemetery
The main gate is at Kingsessing Ave and S 62nd Street.
No regular hours posted, but I visited at noon on a Tuesday and the gates were open.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cathedral Buffet

Cathedral Buffet