Built in 1836, Laurel Hill was one of the country's first rural cemeteries, built to provide recreation for the living as well as rest for the dead. In the 21st century, the cemetery attracts visitors to musical programs, tours, photography programs, and more. Prior to the construction of East River Drive (now Kelly Drive), many of Laurel Hill's visitors accessed the cemetery from the river, arriving by steamboat. A 2013 Center grant will support the restoration of this entrance and make the site accessible to the thousands of people using the Schuylkill River Trail daily for walking, jogging, and biking, for the first time in over a century.
One of the few cemeteries to be designated as a National Historic Landmark and one of the country's first rural cemeteries, Laurel Hill Cemetery will rebuild the historic pedestrian entrance that once existed along its river façade but was removed more than a century ago. The restored entrance will make the grounds newly accessible to the 3,000 joggers, dog walkers, and cyclists who pass by each day, as well as the thousands of people who flock to Philadelphia annually for sporting events along Kelly Drive. Laurel Hill has been a tourist attraction and recreational site since its founding, with grounds that boast notable architecture and a landscaped arboretum. New audiences will have access to available on-site learning resources, such as Laurel Hill's free cell phone tour, and future recreational offerings will likely include nature hikes, group fitness outings, and scavenger hunts.