My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This little gem is part of a series which collects historic photographs of Americana. Images of America: New Orleans Cemeteries includes hundreds of black-and-white photographs of more than a dozen New Orleans-area cemeteries, including all three St. Louis graveyards, both Lafayette cemeteries, and the Metairie, Cypress Grove, and Greenwood necropolis. The photos are a nice blend of overviews or landscapes—which give a sense of the larger graveyard—and detail of the reliefs or inscriptions adorning specific tombs.
My favorite section of the book illuminates the Girod Street Cemetery, the original Protestant burial ground, which was laid out in the rural style popular in northern graveyards. Christ Church Episcopal founded Girod Street Cemetery in 1822, but by the 1950s, it had been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that the Church deconsecrated the land and demolished over a thousand tombs. Part of the former cemetery lies under the end zone of the Superdome. Some say this explains why the New Orleans Saints rarely win. The photos of the overgrown graveyard, pre-demolition, are reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Breathtaking!
Another highlight is the chapter on the Jewish Cemeteries, which are seldom featured in other books on New Orleans. Despite the Inquisition’s prohibition against Jewish settlers in Catholic Louisiana, the first synagogue outside the original 13 American colonies was founded in New Orleans, so there is a long history of Jewish burials in the area. Although the monuments span from slate tablets up through modern granite blocks, this book makes clear that Victorian-era artistry was as appreciated in Hebrew Rest as is any other graveyard in town.
The only flaws in this book are minor. There is no list of cemetery names or addresses, not even a contact number for Save Our Cemeteries, the group who’s worked so hard to restore and protect these fragile treasures. That’s the fault of the author. The publisher’s fault lies in the lack of a listing of the other Images of America titles. If I knew how many cemetery books they’d published, I might be writing them a check even now.
You can get your copy from Amazon: New Orleans Cemeteries (Images of America: Louisiana)
This is another review from Morbid Curiosity #7.
To see all my cemetery reviews, click on the Cemetery Book Reviews category in the right column.