Eastern Cemetery, located in the heart of the Highlands neighborhood, is a rich source of Louisville history. Dating back to the 1840s, Eastern is one of the city’s oldest cemeteries and was one of the first to bury people of different races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds in unsegregated areas. The grounds are the final resting place for individuals from all walks of life, including slaves, Odd Fellows, Freemasons, congressmen, mayors, ministers, boxers, and veterans. Furthermore, the cemetery was the site of the first crematorium in Louisville, and possibly in the entire Commonwealth.
However, Eastern Cemetery's national notoriety stems from its long, dark history of overburial and neglect. The cemetery made news in 1989 when a worker finally blew the whistle on mass reuse of graves (possibly dating all the way back to 1858) and reported the activity to the Attorney General, exposing the Louisville Crematories and Cemetery Company, which at the time owned Eastern, Greenwood, and Schardein Cemeteries.
Since then, Eastern Cemetery has been left largely abandoned and forgotten, remaining in legal and financial limbo due to the complexities of state cemetery statutes. Today, the Friends of Eastern Cemetery is the largest caretaker for the grounds. These volunteers strive to bring Eastern back to its former glory, and to honor those who are interred there, as well as their families.
This Obscura Day, join us for an in-depth tour of Eastern's historic grounds with the Friends of Eastern Cemetery. Tours will be led by volunteer Joel Berndt, who has dedicated much of his time developing tours to help raise awareness about Eastern Cemetery and teach the community about the impact that those laid to rest at Eastern have had on the community, the Commonwealth, and even the nation.
There is no admission charge for these tours. However, donations will be graciously accepted. The Friends of Eastern Cemetery is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so 100% of your donations go to the upkeep of Eastern Cemetery.
Tours will be offered at 10:00am and 12:00pm. Please make sure to double-check your tour reservation time!
Check out our full lineup of amazing adventures taking place all around the world on Obscura Day, our annual celebration of discovery!
Use the #obscuraday hashtag on your favorite social media platforms to show us how you're celebrating. We'll be featuring your posts on our own platforms all day, and you could even win some Atlas Obscura prizes.