Visitors Guide to
4947 West Florissant Road
St. Louis, MO
Bellefontaine Cemetery had its beginnings in 1849 when
many prominent citizens of St. Louis recognized that the old cemeteries
along Jefferson Avenue would have to be abandoned as they stood in the
path of the city’s westward growth. The movement for a new cemetery was
led by banker William McPherson and former mayor John F. Darby. They
organized a group of notable men, regardless of religious affiliation,
and bought 138 acres of land on Bellefontaine Road. The tract was
composed principally of the rolling, tree covered hills of the old
Hempstead farm. In March of 1849 the group incorporated as the Rural
Cemetery Association, changing the name to the Bellefontaine Cemetery
Association at the next meeting because the cemetery was on the old
military road leading to the former Fort Belle Fontaine. Just months
after Bellefontaine Cemetery was created St. Louis experienced the worst
cholera epidemic in its history. The epidemic started in May and ended
in August and took over 4,500 lives, approximately ten percent of the
population after Saint Louis.
After the epidemic abated, James B. Yeatman, a member
of the Bellefontaine Cemetery Association, went east to hire an
landscape architect. Yeatman hired Almerin Hotchkiss, who was working at
the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. Hotchkiss began his work
on Bellefontaine Cemetery in the autumn of 1849 and held the position of
Superintendent until his death forty-six years later. He was succeeded
by his son, Frank, who held the position for an additional twenty years.
The peaceful and scenic atmosphere that exists at Bellefontaine Cemetery
is largely the result of Almerin Hotchkiss’s efforts. The original 138
acres was expanded to 314 acres by the turn of the century.
Bellefontaine Cemetery’s fourteen miles of curved roadways were created
to afford beautiful views of the landscape, seasonal foliage, and lakes
confined with its borders. The cemetery has one of the finest
collections of trees in the Saint Louis area.
Bellefontaine Cemetery is the resting place for many prominent men and
women who contributed to the westward expansion of the United States as
well as civic leaders and other notable personalities. Some of the
people are Thomas Hart Benton - Missouri’s first Senator, Samuel Hawken
– gunsmith famous for the “Hawken Rifle,” favored by mountain men and fur trappers, Captain James B. Eads
- the engineer who oversaw the construction of the Eads Bridge, the
first steel bridge to span the Mississippi, Adolphus Busch - the beer
magnate, Sara Teasdale - a Pulitzer Prize winning poet recognized as one
of America’s finest women poets, and General William Clark - of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition. Bellefontaine Cemetery is considered an
outdoor museum of because of its many architecturally significant
mausoleums and monuments.
cemetery gates are open daily 8 am - 5 pm
office is open Monday - Friday: 8 am - 4 pm.
There is no charge to visit Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Visitors can pick up a self-guided tour book of
nearly fifty significant gravesites at the cemetery office during business
hours. A white line down the center of the roadways makes taking the tour
is located in north St. Louis.
the downtown area, Take I-70 west to Exit 245B (West Florissant Avenue)
Proceed one-sixth of a mile north to the cemetery.
Learn more about the
St. Louis area.