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Of all the cemeteries in New Orleans, Lafayette exudes the strongest sense of subtropical Southern Gothic. The stark contrast of moldering crypts and gentle decay with the forceful fertility of the fecund greenery is incredibly jarring. It’s a place filled with stories – of German and Irish immigrants, deaths by yellow fever, social societies doing right by their dead – that pulls the living into New Orleans’ long, troubled past.
The cemetery was built in 1833 and filled to capacity within decades of its opening, before the surrounding neighborhood reached its greatest affluence. Indeed, not far from the entrance is a tomb containing the remains of an entire family that died of yellow fever. By 1872 the prestigious Metairie Cemetery in Mid-City had opened and its opulent grounds appealed to those with truly extravagant and flamboyant tastes.
In July 1995, author Anne Rice staged her own funeral here. She hired a horse-drawn hearse and a brass band to play dirges, and wore an antique wedding dress as she laid down in a coffin. The event coincided with the release of one of Rice’s novels.