St. Peter's Church and Burial Ground

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Philadelphia, PA
United States
St. Peter's Church and Burial Ground

Located in Society Hill, the land for this church and burial ground was acquired from the family of William Penn in 1757. Situated in the northwest corner of the lot and oriented on an east-west axis, construction on the church began in 1758 and was completed in 1761, led by architect-builder Robert Smith. Additional land to the south of the church was acquired in 1758 for burials and, by 1764, the grounds were enclosed by a cedar fence, which was renovated in 1776 but burned for firewood by British troops shortly thereafter. In 1782, additional land to the west of the church was purchased to provide more burial space. In 1784, a brick wall and wrought-iron gates and palisades were constructed to enclose the grounds and brick walkways were installed. The earliest known trees on the site were willows and Lombardy poplars, with sycamores planted in the 1770s. In the early nineteenth century, a memorial to Benjamin Carr was designed by William Strickland and installed. In the 1830s and 1840s, the iron gates were reconstructed, water from the Schuylkill River was piped to the churchyard, a row of sycamore (along the north wall) and several silver maples and chestnuts were planted, and a bell tower was erected. At the turn of the century, gravemounds were leveled and an axial brick walkway was installed. In 1964, the grounds was redesigned by landscape architect Louis Schmidt. Two years later, with more than 1,000 interments, the cemetery was closed to new burials. Marble monuments and headstones are shaded by mature gingko, red oak, cedar, and magnolia. Osage orange, cherry, redbud, and dogwood are also present. St. Peter’s was designated a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.