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Places to Explore: Mt Hope Cemetery

One of the most beautiful settings in Rochester is not usually thought of as a tourist stop or a place for locals to hike or run or take a relaxing walk, but it should be!

First in the Nation

Located on 196 acres at the corner of Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues in the city of Rochester, Mt. Hope Cemetery was founded in 1838 and is the first municipally owned cemetery in the United States. The 1832 and 1834 cholera outbreaks in the city of Rochester claimed 110 lives – in a city of only 10,000, those were devastating losses – resulting in the need for more burial space.

Geographic Features

Formed by melting ice sheets, the Mount Hope esker, a feature of the cemetery now called Indian Trail, was used by the Seneca Indians as a continuous high path trail between the Bristol Hills and Lake Ontario.

Not far beyond the south entrance opposite The Distillery you will find one of Mt. Hope’s “kettles” . A kettle is a circular depression in the land formed by a loose piece of glacier that was covered by sediment, melted slowly and eventually left a dimple in the earth. Sylvan Waters, a water feature constructed within one of the kettles, was beautifully remodeled and brought back to use in 2017.

There are 14 miles of paths within the cemetery with the perimeter road itself being three miles long. When you visit, you’ll find a lot of runners and walkers getting their miles in and perhaps training for any one of the races that are held there annually.

Who is There?

Most know that Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglas are buried at Mt. Hope. Here are a few others you may not know:

Hiram Sibley: Sheriff of Rochester from 1844 to 1846 and the first president of Western Union Telegraph Company.

Anna Murray-Douglas: first wife of Frederick Douglas. Born emancipated in Denton MD, in 1813, she was the one who encouraged and assisted Frederick in escaping slavery. Upon their move to Rochester, she established a headquarters for the Underground Railroad from their home.

Frank Gannett: Founder of the Gannett Company which was, until 1985, headquartered in Rochester.

John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb: Founders of Bausch & Lomb

Want to Know More?

If you want more information about Mt. Hope Cemetery, the Friends of Mount Hope are an absolute treasure trove of its history. They host seasonal tours of the cemetery as well as present occasional lectures about the “residents”, history and topography of Mt. Hope.

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Sharon Quataert