Houston's been home to former presidents, movie stars, famous crooks and the lawyers that got them out of jail, sports legends and medical pioneers, and all sorts of colorful folks. Where do all of these people go when they die? To Houston cemeteries, of course. Here's our list of our favorites.
10. De Zavala Cemetery Coming in at number 10 is De Zavala Cemetery. Heroes from the War of Texas Independence are buried in here. The cemetery is located inside San Jacinto Battleground Park (where the heroes fought and died). Burial dates range up to April, 1836.
9. Olivewood Cemetery Olivewood Cemetery was a burial ground for slaves before it became an official cemetery in 1875. The city's first black alderman, Richard Brock, bought the grounds and it was opened to black Methodists in 1877. It was the first African-American burial ground in Houston. Decades of neglect account for its current condition, although a group of descendents of people buried there has been making significant clean-up and preservation efforts over the last few years. Also, the fact that it sits next to a bayou doesn't help. A few graves have been lost as the bayou's banks have eaten away at the cemetery's border.
8. Hillendahl Cemetery A one-time winner of Best Cemetery in the Houston Press Best of Houston awards, Hillendahl Cemetery is the smallest - and the most strangely located- cemetery on our list. On what was once the Hillendahl farm, a family burial ground still stands, even through the 1,400-square-foot plot is surrounded by businesses and busy street (it sits at the corner of Long Point and Pech). There are 18 headstones in Hillendahl, all for members of the German immigrant family. A family descendant sold the farm, but refused to sell the cemetery, so there it is.
7. Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery
We had to have the first feng shui cemetery on our list. Because of the large number of Asian residents, the cemetery altered some of its design plans to accommodate the teachings of the ancient system to achieve perfect spiritual balance in physical world. Former Mayor Roy Hofheinz and defense attorney Percy Foreman are among those that call Forest Park Westheimer home.
6. College Park Cemetery
The final resting ground of Jack Yates, a famous civil rights leader of the 1800s, College Park is the fourth oldest African American cemetery in Houston. It's showing signs of both neglect and restoration these days.
5. Congregation Beth Israel Cemetery
If you shopped in Houston anytime before 1980, you'll recognize lots of the names on the headstones in Beth Israel. Dating back to 1844, it's the oldest Jewish cemetery in Texas with members of the Battlestein, Levy, Gordon, Finger, Meyer and Sakowitz families interned there. There are also a couple of Zindlers, as well as Ben Taub (the dead guy, not the hospital), and a few rather famous rabbis such as Henry Barnston and Hyman Judah Schachtel. This is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Texas.
4. St. Vincent's Cemetery
St. Vincent's Cemetery, attached to the grounds of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic church is the only burial ground on our list that also sometimes serves as a playground. The Our Lady of Guadalupe school, hemmed in as it is on all sides, sometimes allows the school kids to play in the cemetery. We can recall an especially energetic game of kickball where the score was thrown into question over whether or not one of the runners had indeed touched second base (a convenient headstone). Cries of "But Miss, he didn't touch the dead guy!" erupted as the losers protested the run. St. Vincent's, which dates back to 1852, counts Texas Revolution heroes and earliest pioneers as residents. Dick Dowling is buried here.
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3. Forest Park East Cemetery
Another Forest Park entry on our list, East Cemetery was founded in 1951. Lots of NASA big shots are buried there, as is one of the victims of the Aggie bonfire debacle and Andrea Yates's five young children.
Our choice for the top spot on the list is Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery. It is the third largest cemetery in Texas and jammed with luminaries including Jesse Jones, Hugh Roy Cullen, Oscar Holcombe, "Red" Adair, Lloyd Bentsen and murderer Karla Faye Tucker (the last woman to be put to death in Texas). The setting is what we like best about Forest Park Lawndale. Buildings on the grounds have Tiffany stained-glass windows and spectacular statues dot the graves. There's a pond and small lake on site and a wonderful and wide bend of Braes Bayou that winds along one side of the property. Consequently the cemetery is home to several ducks.