Tuesday 02 Sep 2014

Westminster Hall and Burying Ground

The cemetery at Fayette and Greene dates from 1786, when members of First Presbyterian Church acquired property on the outskirts of Baltimore, about a mile away from the wharves, homes and business center of the burgeoning town of 12,000 people.

Members of First Presbyterian included many prominent merchants, Revolutionary War heroes, political leaders and other elites of predominantly Scots-Irish descent. The burial ground had room for about 180 plots, with a main entrance on the south side of the property.

“Westminster’s gravestones read like a who’s who of early Baltimore,” reads a historical marker at the cemetery.

Among those interred there include James Calhoun, Baltimore’s first mayor; James McHenry, signer of the Declaration of Independence; Sam Smith, who served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812; several U.S. senators and representatives; and most notably, Edgar Allan Poe.

In 1852, First Presbyterian completed a towering Gothic Revival church to protect the cemetery from vandals and provide services for the growing population on the west side of town. The church is built on brick pilings that arch over ancient graves and burial vaults, creating a sort of catacombs beneath the structure.

The cemetery operated for 155 years, receiving its last body in 1943. In 1977, the property was transferred to Westminster Preservation Trust, a non-profit formed by University of Maryland School of Law faculty to preserve and restore the historical resources.

Today Westminster Hall can be rented for concerts, weddings, dinners and special events. The cemetery is open to the public from 8 a.m. to dusk daily. Tours of Westminster Hall and catacombs are available by reservation.

Westminster Hall and Burying Ground
500 West Baltimore Street
westminster@law.umaryland.edu
Rentals: 410-706-2072
Tours: 410-706-4128


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