So St Louis Cemetery became the new cemetery of New Orleans, opening a year after the Great Fire, in 1789. Located on the north side of Basin Street, it’s adjacent to what used to be the Storyville area of the city, but is now the Iberville Housing Project. This, the original St Louis Cemetery, is now known as St Louis No. 1 because another two St Louis Cemeteries have been created since.
The above ground vaults which were constructed to hold the dead in St Louis No. 1 became a characteristic of New Orleans. Some say they were designed this way because of the ground water levels, though others say it was simply because this was how the Spanish (who were ruling the city at this time) buried their dead, so they continued with their own tradition. It’s also been noted that the vaults here in St Louis Cemetery are very similar to those found in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and this could have been the result of the influence of all the French residents in New Orleans.
What is interesting about the burials which occurred here is that people from all walks of life, rich and poor, all cultures and all colors are buried within St Louis No. 1 without segregation. The only form of segregation was by religion because St Louis is a Roman Catholic cemetery and so different parts of the cemetery were designated for religions other than Roman Catholic.
St Louis No. 1 is quite the tourist attraction these days, and a number of companies offer guided tours. Please take serious note – St Louis Cemetery and all of the other cemeteries in New Orleans are prime locations for muggings and even more serious crimes. It is very inadvisable to venture into the cemeteries on your own, especially at night! If you’re with a number of other people in a tour group you should be safe.
St Louis No. 2 (which opened in 1823) is located another 3 blocks back, bordering Claiborne Avenue, whilst St Louis No. 3 (which opened in 1854) is about 2 miles back from the French Quarter on Esplanade Avenue near Bayou St John.