Rural Cemetery to Urban Oasis

Rural Cemetery to Urban Oasis

A well-maintained plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery. Photo courtesy of The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery & Arboretum.

On Wednesday, October 4, join LancasterHistory and The Friends of the Tanger Arboretum as we welcome Kate Benisek, landscape architect and professor at Temple University, and Jennifer O’Donnell, President of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery to our Regional History Colloquium. Benisek and O’Donnell will discuss how Mount Moriah Cemetery, a 200-acre cemetery established in 1855, came to be abandoned and unkept and how, in early 2011, it became certified as an arboretum with a “living legacy.”

Once one of Philadelphia’s grand rural cemeteries, Mount Moriah Cemetery spans nearly 200 acres across Southwest Philadelphia and Yeadon Borough. The cemetery has been an inclusive final resting place for Philadelphia’s diverse population, welcoming people of all races and incomes, and adapting to the changing burial needs of its diverse communities, including incorporating US military lots, Muslim burials, and communal plots. After the cemetery was abandoned by its owners, The Friends of Mount Moriah, Inc. was formed and has cared diligently for the cemetery since 2011. Today, The Mount Moriah Cemetery and Arboretum cares for both the living and the dead, by focusing on ecological restoration, educational programming, and community events.

Kate Benisek and Jennifer O'DonnellKate Benisek is an Assistant Professor of Instruction at Temple University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate-level landscape architecture design studio courses as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Architecture and Environmental Design. Kate is originally from Oak Park, IL, and grew up in Chicagoland. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in History at Boston University, Kate went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in Landscape Design at the Conway School (2009) and a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Cornell University (2014).

Jennifer O’Donnell is a taphophile with a love of genealogy and historic preservation. She has been a board member of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery for a decade and was elected president in 2023 after previously serving terms as secretary and vice president. Jenn manages all aspects of communications for the Friends, serves on the Events Committee, and has an intimate knowledge of Mount Moriah Cemetery’s records. She’s also an avid contributor on and has taken over 150,000 photos that document graves in multiple states. Professionally, Jenn has spent over 20 years working at Haverford College as the Director of Web Communications. She is a graduate of Drexel University.


This event is expected to take place in person at St. James Episcopal Church, 119 N. Duke Street in Lancaster, on Wednesday, October 4, 2023. Doors open and the reception begins at 5pm. The lecture will begin at 5:30pm. The lecture will also be streamed to YouTube Live at 5:30pm for those who wish to join us virtually. Parking at St. James is available on-street or at nearby garages for a fee.

This program is free and open to the public. In-person attendance requires advance registration in order to guarantee a seat. Due to capacity restrictions, tickets may not be available at the door. Virtual attendance requires advance registration in order to receive the YouTube link. Register online by clicking the link below or by calling (717) 392-4633. Registration will close online on Wednesday, October 4 at 5:30pm. The online version of this program will also be recorded and available on LancasterHistory’s YouTube channel after the event.


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In-Person Event Lecture Online/Virtual Event Off-Site Event Reception

October 4, 2023 St. James Episcopal Church, 119 N. Duke Street, Lancaster, PA 5PM Reception | 5:30PM Lecture FREE | Registration Required