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Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg

#1 of 7 in Parks in Lynchburg
Must see · Cemetery · Garden
The Old City Cemetery is a historic cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is the oldest municipal (city-owned) cemetery still in use today in the state of Virginia, and one of the oldest such burial grounds in the United States. Since the 1990s it has been operated as a history park and arboretum, in addition to being an active cemetery.

The exact number of interments in Old City Cemetery is unknown because of a lack of official records before 1914, but it is estimated that 18,000-20,000 people are at final rest there. They represent an unusually diverse cross-section of the local community, including founding fathers and mothers of the town, Confederate soldiers who died in military hospitals, African American tobacco factory laborers, European immigrants, paupers, and "strangers" who died passing through town.

Two-thirds of the burials in the cemetery are African American. It has been estimated that over 90% of Lynchburg's enslaved and free African American population are buried in the Old City Cemetery, the primary burial site for African Americans from 1806 to 1865. In fact, at that time it was the only burial ground, excluding private family graveyards, available to African Americans in the area. A notable burial is that of Ota Benga (c. 1883 – 1916), a Congolese pygmy exhibited at human zoos, although his remains may have been later moved to Lynchburg's White Rock Hill Cemetery.
The cemetery's Confederate section contains the graves of over 2,200 soldiers from 14 states. Also interred at the cemetery is poet Bransford Vawter.
The cemetery was established on land donated to the City of Lynchburg by city founder John Lynch. The original deed for the property states it shall be used as a public burying ground or for a house of worship—and for no other purpose whatsoever.

The 27-acre (11 ha) site includes four small historic house museums located inside the cemetery, which is cared for by the Southern Memorial Association.

Pest House Medical Museum, Lynchburg's first hospital

Hearse House and Caretakers' Museum, museum about the cemetery and funerals

Station House Museum, a reconstructed C&O Railway depot furnished as in World War I

Mourning Museum, museum about mourning customs, located inside the Cemetery CenterThe cemetery also includes a non-denominational Chapel, built to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the founding of Lynchburg's Old City Cemetery in 1806, and a Columbarium with niches and crypts for new burials below the Chapel.
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266 reviews
  • Very interesting. A good place to take photos. We were not able to identify a few of the trees of interest.  more »
  • Beautiful, peaceful cemetery with graves dating back to 1700s. Many historical and educational exhibits. Famous Confederate Civil War cemetery as well as public potters field, family plots and...  more »
  • I really love old City Cemetery. It's beautifully taken care of, with a variety of garden spaces. I've photographed a few different sessions here too, which made for beautiful pictures. I also love the wooden swing they have on the large oak tree. It's a peaceful, serene place to visit. The very small white church there is also very pretty. My sister had a small intimate wedding ceremony there, which was beautiful.
  • This is a beautiful place to spend a morning. Many lovely plants, and interesting exhibits. A gorgeous, contemplative, introspective place, with surprising history and art style exhibits strewn throughout. I wish i lived closed, to participate in their artistic offerings. I understand they have candelight walks in the fall, and sometimes concerts. This is a really lovely place.

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