Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery Joins Philadelphia’s Glowing Skyline

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Laurel Hill Cemetery

Laurel Hill Cemetery has been a Philadelphia landmark since 1836, when John Jay Smith founded it as, to use his words: “a suitable, neat and orderly location for a rural cemetery.” Today, the area surrounding the cemetery is far from rural. To promote community engagement and showcase its natural and architectural beauty, Laurel Hill is undergoing a three-phase project to illuminate the cemetery, enhancing nighttime visibility to passerby. With the implementation of phase one, the historic mausoleums and nearby trees along Kelly Drive and Hunting Park Avenue are stepping out of the shadows.

The Lighting Practice designed the lighting master plan for the 78-acre National Historic Landmark cemetery and closely worked with Laurel Hill to implement phase one. Al Borden(retired founder of TLP)Caitlin Bucari, John ConleyAlina Wolf, and Angela Banner developed a lighting system to illuminate the cemetery while respecting the integrity of the grounds, which serve as the final resting place for more than 75,000 people, including many prominent American figures.

TLP chose LED sources with precise options to eliminate glare and accurately light the intended structures. The 93 in-ground RGBW LEDs networked via a computerized control system will provide some color-changing flexibility, however, the cemetery will be predominately lit in warm white light, “not unlike candlelight,” Al Borden explained to WHYY, “and a soft-focus to give it a respectful glow and draw attention in ways that are interesting to look at.” The fixtures will turn off every evening at a preset time to preserve normal day/night cycles for wildlife, eliminating disturbances to the natural habitat.

TLP is proud to be part of the project to highlight this important Philadelphia landmark. The team looks forward to seeing the next two phases completed.


Lighting up the dead: Historic Laurel Hill takes on a new glow

WHYY | February 2020

More than 30,000 cars zip by on Kelly Drive alongside the Schuylkill River every day, according to Nancy Goldenberg, president and CEO of the Laurel Hill Cemetery, which overlooks the riverbank. Most of those drivers likely have no idea what is over the crest of the ridge above them.

Goldenberg would like some of them, however briefly, to look up.

“Cemeteries are much more than cemeteries,” she said. “They have stories to tell, and beautiful trees. We hope that by lighting the cemetery more people will see us for the first time, even though they drive by every day.”

The Laurel Hill Cemetery just completed the first of a three-phase project to illuminate its historic grounds. Selected mausoleums and their accompanying trees perched above the intersection of Kelly Dr. and Hunting Park Ave. will be spotlighted with a gentle, warm glow after dark, from dusk to 1 a.m.

Click to listen to Al’s interview and read the full article.

Photos by Jered Widmer

Laurel Hill Cemetery

Laurel Hill Cemetery

Laurel Hill Cemetery