Opened in 1786 by Baltimore's First Presbyterian Church, the Westminster Burying Ground is the resting place for many of early Baltimore's most notable citizens, including merchants, mayors, and fifteen generals from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. In 1852, the church that also occupies the property was built on brick piers over some of the tombs, creating what is called the "Baltimore Catacombs."
Although notables such as Sam Smith and James McHenry are buried here (bitter rivals in life, fate brought them cheek to jowl in the graveyard), the most famous eternal resident is Edgar Allan Poe. When he died in 1849, Poe was originally buried in an unmarked grave next to that of his grandfather in the back of Westminster. In 1875, Poe's body was moved to the front of the graveyard with a dedication ceremony that included the American poet Walt Whitman. Adding to the mystery that surrounds Poe and his death, Baltimore lore has it that the re-internment in 1875 got the wrong poor soul into the new grave (probably not true) and that the current monument has Poe's birth date wrong (true).
The church and graveyard are now in the care of the Westminster Preservation Trust, a private, non-profit organization established in 1977. In the early 1980s, the Trust restored the graveyard as well as the former church building, and the church is now available to rent.