With its deep rooted connection to the beginnings of what we now call the United States, Lynchburg has some very unique historical landmarks. Of these, Old City Cemetery is especially interesting. It is the oldest public cemetery in Virginia still in use. A non-denominational chapel was built in 2006 to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of the founding of the cemetery.
Due to its historic nature, the Old City Cemetery is open to the public with both guided and self-guided tours. The guided tours offer two different areas of interest to choose from, the history of the cemetery and the horticulture contained within the cemetery. The history-focused tour looks at the various ironwork and gravemarkers in the cemetery, the effects of the Civil War, and cemetery archaeology among other areas. The horticulture tour focuses on the over 200 varieties of antique roses which can be found in the cemetery, the butterfly garden, the birds and bees on site, etc. If you are interested in a guided tour, an appointment has to be made in advance. The tours can last between 30 to 120 minutes and comfortable shoes are recommended.
Some of the upcoming events at the Old City Cemetery include the Confederate Memorial Day Service on May 27th, an annual tradition since 1866. It begins at 3pm and dressing in period clothing is welcome. A Memorial Day Bird Walk and Count held on May 28th is another of the cemetery’s annual traditions. The walk begins at 8:30am. On June 1st‘ the Cemetery also celebrates National Donut Day, a day honoring the female volunteers of World War I. Free donuts and tours of the Station House Museum will be given from 11am to 1pm.
The Southern Memorial Association makes all the events and tours at the Cemetery possible. The Association was founded in the 1870’s with the mission of maintaining Confederate soldiers’ graves. They look to solicit funds in order to manage and maintain the Cemetery and its grounds. With over 20,000 individuals taking their final rest at Old City Cemetery, the Southern Memorial Association has a big job to do.
Between the solitude and serenity that can be found in the Scatter Garden at the Old City Cemetery to the graves of early prominent african american citizens of Lynchburg and the small museum in the Old City Cemetery Center, there is much to see. Contact the Cemetery to set up a tour or stop in and grab a brochure to lead your own self-guided tour (open daily from 11am to 3pm from March through October) and check out a piece of local history!