Bellefontaine Cemetery is a nonprofit, non-denominational cemetery and arboretum located in St. Louis, Missouri. Established in 1849, Bellefontaine Cemetery played an important role in the early growth of St. Louis, and is the final resting place of many historical figures, including William Clark, Adolphus Busch, Thomas Hart Benton, and William S. Burroughs. The cemetery contains 314 acres of land and over 87,000 graves. It is also home to a number of architecturally significant monuments and mausoleums such as the Louis Sullivan-designed Wainwright Tomb. The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
The buildings, mausoleums, and larger monuments at Bellefontaine display influences from Classic Revival, Romanesque, Gothic and Egyptian Revival, and even some forms of modern architecture. Bellefontaine is a wonderful place to study Western architecture, and architectural tours are offered for student groups as well as tours for the general public. The cemetery is noted for its contribution to cemetery design in the nineteenth century. Many of Bellefontaine’s tombs and monuments are recognized as important, unique features of the cemetery.
In addition to being a cemetery, Bellefontaine is a Level II Accredited Arboretum, and is listed in the Morton Register of Arboreta. The mission of the Arboretum at Bellefontaine is to support and enhance the cemetery as a place of perpetual commemoration, and as a garden of beauty, inspiration, and historic significance. Bellefontaine has an accessible and diverse horticultural collection, and has become an important natural sanctuary and habitat for wildlife in the urban environment. It is the only accredited arboretum in the city of St. Louis. Bellefontaine’s grounds are home to an international variety of meticulously cared-for trees and shrubs, providing a changing landscape every season. The cemetery is home to 1,100 shrubs and over 5,000 trees representing over 200 distinct varieties.
Bellefontaine was founded as St. Louis’ first rural cemetery, but today it is surrounded by neighborhoods and industry. Nonetheless, the arboretum remains a tranquil haven for local wildlife, including red fox, raccoons, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, wood ducks and ducklings, and many migratory birds.
Free public tours are held on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. These bus tours are led by a Bellefontaine Master Guide. Those interested must sign up no later than the Wednesday prior to the tour. To sign up for a free public tour, contact the office at 314-381-0750. Please arrive for tours 15 minutes early.
Free Master Guide-led walking tours are also offered. The tour is a three-mile walk exploring the flora, fauna, and history of the cemetery. Reservations must be made in advance. Times and dates vary, so please contact the office at 314-381-0750.