Gravesites of the famous–from the 18th century to modern day–are visited on almost a daily basis in the Philadelphia area. Some go to be close to history and those who helped shape it. Others are long-time fans and pay tribute to their heroes by saying a prayer or placing flowers at the burial site. And there are, of course, descendants that pay their respects too.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia is not a city that has organized tours of the final resting places of the famous that travel from one cemetery or burial ground to the next, so you’ll need to do it on your own. Here’s a guide to the burial sites of the famous in the Philadelphia area. -John McDevitt
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Scientist, Philosopher, Printer, Diplomat, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution
“A penny saved is a penny earned.” Benjamin Franklin’s quote might be inspiring visitors to toss good luck coins on his grave site at Christ Church Burial Ground in Old City. Up to three thousand dollars in change is collected from the grave each year and goes towards the preservation of the 291-year-old historic burial ground. This cemetery is the final resting place of five signers of the Declaration of Independence (including Franklin), the founders of the U.S. Navy and many of America’s early medical pioneers. Burials span three centuries of American history, and there are 1,400 markers at the burial ground, with 4,000 buried on the two acre plot. Many looking to fill in the blanks of a family tree frequently visit the burial ground to see if a link can be found.
Listen to John McDevitt’s podcast on Christ Church Burial Ground…
Christ Church Burial Ground
5th & Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$1 Students, $2 adults
$15 for groups up to 25 people
After Hour Tours:
June: “Brew n History” (Philadelphia beer history and its connection to those buried on the grounds)
Thursdays 5:30 p.m., $5 per person
Betsy Ross (1752-1836)
Upholsterer and Flag-maker
A short walk down the street from Christ Church Burial ground is the Betsy Ross House in historic Philadelphia. Ross is credited with making the first American flag. Her grave is in the shady courtyard of the house.
Betsy Ross was first buried at the Free Quaker Burial Ground on South 5th Street in 1836. Twenty years later, her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, the family gravesite. In 1975, the city ordered her remains be moved into the Betsy Ross House in preparation for the bicentennial.
Story-tellers and colonial crafters are frequently stationed on the grounds. You can also go inside the house for a tour.
The American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial
239 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Harry Kalas (1936-2009)
Hall of Fame Sports Broadcaster
Hary Kalas did play-by-play radio and television broadcasting for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1971 until his death in 2009. “Loving Husband, Loving Father, Friend to all” appears on his marker, along with a giant microphone resting on top. If you need a rest, you can sit in one of four stadium seats at the site from the old Veterans Stadium, which was demolished in 2004. And the sod at the gravesite is the very grass that the 2008 Phillies won the World Series playing on! There is also a Harry Kalas museum exhibit that can be viewed free of charge.
Another popular site at the East Falls Cemetery is not really a grave. It’s a marker for fictional character Adrian Balboa of the “Rocky” movies.
Laurel Hill Cemetery
3822 Ridge Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19132
A Tour and Toast to Our Famous Fishtowners
June 8th, 6 p.m.
$20 general/$17 members/$15 seniors & students/12 and under free
Of Planets, Paper & Pendulums: The Life & times of David Rittenhouse
June 11th, 5 p.m.
$60 general/$55 members/$50 FLHC or Historic RittenhouseTown members
Fathers and Sons in Arms: Two Generations of Military Heroes
June 18th, 2 p.m.
$15 general/$12 members/$10 seniors & students/12 and under free
Teddy Pendergrass (1950-2010)
R&B Singer, Songwriter, Composer
Teddy Pendergrass is buried at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Montgomery County.
The Philadelphia native was born Theodore DeReese Pendergrass. Some of Pendergrass’s hit singles include, “The More I Get the More I Want”, “Close The Door”, “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “Turn Out The Lights”. Pendergrass was the first African-American singer to sell five platinum albums in a row.
West Laurel Hill Cemetery
215 Belmont Avenue, PA 19004
Pearl Bailey (1918 –1990)
Actress and Singer
Pearl Bailey’s final resting place is at Rolling Green Memorial Park in Chester County.
She made her Broadway debut in “St. Louis Woman” in 1946. She won a Tony Award for the title role of “Hello, Dolly!” in 1968. And in 1986, she won a Daytime Emmy for her performance as a fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special, “Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.”
Rolling Green Memorial Park
1008 West Chester Pike
West Chester, PA 19382
Frank Rizzo Sr. (1920 – 1991)
Police Officer and Politician
Frank Rizzo Sr. served two terms as Mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1980. He was Police Commissioner for four years prior to that.
A 10-foot high statue of Mayor Rizzo stands in front of Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building. There is also a mural portrait of Rizzo at the 9th Street Italian Market. Rizzo is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on the Montgomery/Philadelphia County line. Connie Mack (1862-1956) of Philadelphia baseball fame is buried there too. The hall of fame major league baseball manger’s real name was Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy.
Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
4001 West Cheltenham
Philadelphia, PA 19150
John Barrymore (1882-1942)
John Barrymore was born John Sidney Blyth.
Barrymore was originally entombed in a mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. In December 1980, the casket was removed according to orders from his son, John Drew Barrymore. The elder Barrymore was cremated and taken to the Drew-Blythe plot in Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Philadelphia. His grave remained unmarked until 1998.
Mount Vernon Cemetery
33rd St. & Lehigh Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19132
Commodore John Barry (1745-1803)
Philadelphia’s Irish-born naval commander, Commodore John Barry, is buried at the Old Saint Mary Cemetery in Old City. He was known as the Father of the Navy. A statue of Barry stands in the park behind Independence Hall.
Old Saint Mary Cemetery
252 South 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Marian Anderson (1897-1993)
Marian Anderson was an important figure in the struggle for black artists trying to overcome racial prejudice during the mid-20th century.
Octavius Catto (1839-1871)
Civil rights leader & Baseball Pioneer
Catto was shot and killed in Election Day violence in Philadelphia.
Both Anderson and Catto are buried in Eden Cemetery in Delaware County. Eden is the oldest African American-owned cemetery in the United States.
Eden Memorial Cemetery
1434 Springfield Road
Collingdale, PA 19023