Best Cemetery - 2003
Calvary Cemetery boasts the biggest collection of dead Roman Catholics in St. Louis, but that's not the only reason to celebrate this mid-nineteenth-century treasure on the city's north side. Unlike Bellefontaine Cemetery, Calvary's slightly older and equally ornate neighbor immediately to the east, Calvary lays claim not only to a goodly number of the city's yesteryear movers-and-shakers, it's also the final resting place for one of the city's co-founders, Auguste Chouteau. (The remains of the city's other founder, Pierre Laclede, are lost to history.) Other dead luminaries parked at Calvary include ex-slave Dred Scott, who lost his legal fight for freedom but not his dignity, and U.S. General William Tecumseh Sherman, who gave the South its just deserts. Calvary's also the last stop for playwright and poet Tennessee Williams, gone two decades this year. Williams and his mother, Edwina Dakin Williams, both have large tombstones. Rose Isabelle Williams, Tennessee's sister, does not. Rose, who died in 1996, spent most of her 87 years on earth in a mental institution. She was lobotomized in the 1940s. On her marker is the inscription, "Blow out the candles, Laura" -- a line from Tennessee's Glass Menagerie. Creepy, huh? Calvary last year was named by USA Today as one of the nation's top ten places to "spend a day among the dead." A cemetery visit is an opportunity to ponder the vagaries of life and to capture a piece of the tranquility known only to the dead. And judging from the dead soldier we spotted in a hollowed-out tree, it's a quiet place to have a beer -- though we imagine that practice is not encouraged. Calvary is open 365 days a year, but gates close at 5 p.m. Be sure to request a map at the front office.