Yesterday, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced new rules regarding visiting St. Louis Cemetery #1 which are sure to make a lot of people unhappy. Starting March 1st, visitors to New Orleans will no longer be allowed to visit St. Louis Cemetery #1 without a tour guide. This means that you’ll no longer be able to simply walk into St. Louis Cemetery #1 to explore it on your own. You’ll have to join a New Orleans Cemetery Tour to see St. Louis Cemetery #1. While we understand why the Archdiocese has been forced to make some changes to the way St. Louis Cemetery #1 works, we don’t agree with the way they have chosen to do so.
The main reason that the Archdiocese has been forced to rewrite the rules for visiting St. Louis Cemetery #1 is vandalism. Nobody would even try to argue this point. There is a lot of vandalism inside of St. Louis Cemetery #1, much of it pretty unbelievable. Tombs and graves have been taken apart in an effort to show tourists the bodies that are inside, they have been marked and written on. There have even been instances of people removing parts of the tombs, such as bricks and markers, to take home as souvenirs. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable, and it is time for something to be done to stop it.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans is pledging to revamp the security efforts at St. Louis Cemetery #1 to eliminate vandalism within this historic cemetery. Tour Companies who take their guests into St. Louis Cemetery will now undergo a screening process. Each tour guide will need to be registered with the office at the Archdiocese. Every Tour company will also need to show proof of liability insurance. The new security efforts at St. Louis Cemetery #1 will include round the clock security and a guard at the gate to ensure that only registered tour companies can enter the Cemetery. At a meeting with representatives of the Archdiocese yesterday, we were also told that they plan on installing security cameras to help prevent trespassers at night, which is a big problem. However, all of these new security solutions come with a price, a price they are passing on to the tour companies who bring their guests into St. Louis Cemetery #1. Tour companies will be required to pay $4500 per year to bring our tour groups inside of the Cemetery. This is also the most controversial part of the new plan, aside from eliminating access to the Cemetery for people who are not on tours. It will essentially put a lot of smaller companies out of business, who cannot afford this new fee.
The most controversial aspect of the Archdiocese’s new plan is to not allow anyone to enter St. Louis Cemetery #1 without being accompanied by a tour guide. This essentially eliminates the opportunity to simply enter the Cemetery on your own and explore at your own leisure. And this is a shame. Myself, personally, I love going over to the Cemetery and taking my time to explore this historic Cemetery. Even I will no longer be allowed to do this. The backlash from the public has been pretty severe. At a meeting yesterday we were told by the Archdiocese representative that arrangements will be made to allow family members of those buried inside of St. Louis Cemetery #1 to visit their relatives, calming some of the backlash. However, no exceptions will be made for any tourist, which means that starting in March, if you want to see the sights of St. Louis Cemetery #1, you’ll need to join a tour group.
Here at Discover Historic America, we are exploring some options when it comes to our Cemetery Tours. We understand why the Archdiocese is doing what they’re doing, but we wish they would have asked for input from the tour companies and the public before making their decision. There are numerous other options for provided security for the Cemetery while maintaining flexibility. We know there are a lot of tourists who want to visit St. Louis Cemetery #1. So, in the next 30 days we will be looking at new ways to add tours at St. Louis Cemetery #1. We believe that you’ll appreciate the new options for touring St. Louis Cemetery #1 that we will announce once we have figured out all of the details.
The bottom line is, St. Louis Cemetery does deserve protection. The vandalism that takes place there is unacceptable and needs to be stopped in order to protect this historic landmark. Explore Historic New Orleans is happy to support the Archdiocese when it comes to protecting this historic landmark. It is unfortunate that you will not be allowed to enter St. Louis Cemetery #1 on your own anymore. While this may see us getting an increase in business, we would prefer that this didn’t happen.
We remain committed to showing you the real historic New Orleans on our tours. We will be exploring a few different options that will allow you to visit St. Louis Cemetery #1 in the most convenient manner possible. Added tour times, different tour options..we remain committed to working with you to show you the historical landmark which is St. Louis Cemetery #1.