‘There Are a Lot of Stories Out Here’: West Chester Man’s Volunteerism Preserves the Past at Abandoned Cemetery

Image via Tyger Williams, Philadelphia Inquirer.
Ken Smith.

After the owners of Mount Moriah Cemetery in southwest Philadelphia abandoned it in 2011, volunteers like West Chester resident Ken Smith have taken its care into their own hands by tending the land where 180,000 people rest, writes Kevin Riordan for the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

As a certified arboretum, its plants and trees, like a 140-year-old hemlock tree, are being studied by local universities for urban biodiversity. 

“It’s a green space, it’s history, and it’s the final resting place for Philadelphians, from ordinary individuals who walked the streets of the city, to war heroes,” said Smith, who serves as president of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery. “There are a lot of stories out here.” 

Across the cemetery’s 200 acres, volunteers have cleared away everything from cars and furniture to concrete and around 3,000 tires. They aim to preserve the past and provide a stable future for the landscape. 

“So far, we’ve reclaimed about 60 to 70 percent of the grounds,” said Smith, a financial services executive. “We’ve turned it from a liability to an asset for the neighborhood.” 

Read more about the cemetery in the Philadelphia Inquirer

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