The Scoop: Save Our Cemeteries is a nonprofit organization that preserves, protects, and promotes the 40+ historic cemeteries in New Orleans. A dedicated team of historians, educators, and other experts raise funds for local restoration projects by leading entertaining and informational tours through some of the most well-known cemeteries in the South. Save Our Cemeteries can take adventurous couples to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, Metairie Cemetery, St. Louis No. 3, and other noteworthy cemeteries and tell stories full of jazz, voodoo, and romance.
One fine day in 2009, Amanda Walker, who is the Director of the Save Our Cemeteries nonprofit organization in New Orleans, was working on an ironwork restoration project at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. when she spotted a family who looked lost.
The couple and their son were wandering through the tombs and clearly searching for something.
Amanda asked them if she could help them find their way. The couple explained that their 10-year-old boy was obsessed with pirates and wanted to find the tomb of the privateer Dominique You.
Amanda smiled broadly and told them the tomb in question was about six feet directly behind them. The family whirled around, and the boy was so excited that he asked his parents to take a picture of him and Amanda standing in front of the tomb.
Cemeteries can capture the imaginations of all kinds of people — from academic scholars who conduct historical research to little boys who just love pirates. It can even appeal to couples who want to get away from it all for an afternoon. While cemeteries aren’t typically thought of as romantic, the quiet setting can spark conversation and create a sense of intimacy, and that makes it a pretty fantastic date idea for New Orleans residents and visitors.
If you’re looking for a date that’s off the beaten path, a cemetery tour could be just the thing. Couples in New Orleans can book a tour with Save Our Cemeteries to see historical events in a new light and create special memories that will last a lifetime.
“Cemeteries are outdoor museums,” Amanda pointed out. “If you want to know the origins of a place, visit a cemetery. They provide a great deal of information about the people of that particular area, simply through headstones, family names, and monuments.”
Knowledgeable Guides Make the Past Come Alive
A New Orleans author and philanthropist named Mary Louise Christovich founded Save Our Cemeteries in 1974 to save the wall vaults around the St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 from being torn down and replaced with a chain-link fence. This preservationist effort not only saved the walls from destruction, but also raised money to repair and stabilize them.
Amanda called Mary Lou a “preservation powerhouse,” who saved hundreds of historic structures in New Orleans. When she passed away in 2017 at the age of 89, many people showed their appreciation for her life’s work and legacy. “Throughout her life, she used her influence and connections to advocate for the city as a whole,” Amanda said. “Her memorial service was standing room only.”
Today, Save Our Cemeteries continues the work Mary Lou started. The nonprofit organization leads many restoration, cleanup, and beautification projects in the 40+ cemeteries in New Orleans. Whether it means cleaning headstones, clearing debris, or repairing ancient family tombs, the team puts in a lot of man hours to make these cemeteries look their best and stand the test of time.
These tours are packed with information about the cemetery and its occupants. Knowledgeable guides spin yarns about old burial practices and point out noteworthy tombs and grave sites. For instance, the St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 Tour takes people to see the grave sites of ragtime composer Paul Sarebresole, photographer E.J. Bellocq, and painter Ralston Crawford.
Save Our Cemeteries hires retired educators, librarians, and history buffs to work as its tour guides. They may come from different backgrounds, but they share a similar enthusiasm for New Orleans history. “We often refer to our tour guides as ‘cultural ambassadors.'” Amanda told us. “They really enjoy what they do, tell the stories as they really happened, and their passion becomes very evident when they are conducting tours for us.”
A small, three-woman staff runs Save Our Cemeteries with grit and passion. They organize the tour guides and volunteers, decide which projects to tackle next, and spread the word about the importance of preserving historic cemeteries.
Couples can book a Save Our Cemeteries tour to enjoy an interesting and inexpensive date. The Tombs by Twilight Tour is particularly popular among couples looking for a spooky experience in New Orleans. The three-hour tour starts at dusk on the fourth Saturday of the month and takes people to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. This cemetery has the tomb of the voodoo queen Marie Laveau, and it is also the future resting place of actor Nicholas Cage, who built a tomb there to lift a curse.
The Tombs by Twilight Tour can be a romantic way to kick off an evening of revelry in The Big Easy.
“Afterwards, guests meet for drinks and appetizers at a very nice hotel in the French Quarter,” Amanda explained. “We offer this tour only once a month, and we are the only tour operator allowed by the Archdiocese of New Orleans to give dusk tours — and visitors seem to love it!”
A Top-Rated Experience for Tourists & Locals Alike
Save Our Cemeteries has been around for decades, yet its commitment to the cities of the dead has not wavered one bit. The nonprofit raises awareness about the importance of these historical sites and the stories they have to tell. By taking locals and visitors on cemetery tours, Save Our Cemeteries can offer valuable insights into another place and time.
Thousands of people have written positive reviews of Save Our Cemeteries, and many say they enjoyed learning something new. “My husband and I had a wonderful tour of the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 right as the sun was setting,” said one TripAdvisor review. “I am from New Orleans, but much of the information was new to me (and much appreciated).”
Jenna G. and her family also live in New Orleans, but they still felt drawn to the Save Our Cemeteries tours. “We decided to take the cemetery tour to experience the history of our city,” Jenna explained. “We learned so much in just a short amount of time.”
“They do great work in preservation,” said Karen Joan Kohoutek in a Facebook review. “And they have the best New Orleans cemetery tours. No question!”
When driving home from a funeral in Florida, Samantha and her husband needed to take a break and de-stress, so they stopped in New Orleans where the couple took a tour with Save Our Cemeteries. According to their review, the tour really lifted their spirits. “The guides are so knowledgeable and involved,” Samantha said. “It’s great it’s such a small group.”
“I cannot speak highly enough of our tour with our enthusiastic guide,” said Rich in a review. “The tour was not only interesting and informative, but thought-provoking, too.”
Save Our Cemeteries is unique in that it puts its profits back into the cemeteries. Every cemetery tour supports the restoration of the historical cemeteries in New Orleans. Save Our Cemeteries recently restored three tombs in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, and the organization intends to start a major restoration project in Lafayette Cemetery No. 2. in 2020.
“We hope to gain support to restore the French Butcher’s tomb, a multi-vault society tomb that is very unique, with no society members left to care for it,” Amanda said. “Without intervention, we could lose this beautiful structure, so we’d like to restore it as soon as possible.”
Save Our Cemeteries: A Great Date Activity for History Buffs
Amanda has been working in New Orleans cemeteries for years, and she has seen how the tombs, monuments, and stories can reach out from the past and touch people’s lives. Save Our Cemeteries invites people of all ages and backgrounds to explore hallowed ground and learn about the historical figures and events that shaped New Orleans in its earliest days.
You can take a date with you on a Save Our Cemeteries tour and cultivate a greater appreciation for the present by learning about the past. The tour guides are a wealth of information, weaving interesting yarns that’ll have guests laughing and talking for the rest of the day.
Booking a tour with Save Our Cemeteries is not only a lot of fun — it’s also a good way to support the lasting legacy of these historical sites.
“We are the only cemetery nonprofit advocating for the cemeteries of New Orleans,” Amanda told us. “Proceeds from tours aid in achieving our mission, which is to preserve, promote, and protect the historic cemeteries of New Orleans through restoration, education, and advocacy.”