Mission and History

Mission and History

Mission:

To Preserve our company heritage, protect the legacies entrusted to us, and provide our community with services steeped in timeless values: compassion, integrity, dignity and distinction.

West Laurel Hill Cemetery was founded in 1869 and has served the Philadelphia region as a premier cemetery and crematory. In 1996, to offer additional convenience to our families, West Laurel Hill acquired Bringhurst Funeral Home, (1822) and built the funeral home on the grounds. In 2005, to help better serve the Roxborough community, we purchased Turner Funeral Home, (Circa 1890).

Together, we have proudly served families for almost two centuries. Joining these three branches of our company under one name will help our families and the community easily recognize we are one company dedicated to serving all.

History:

The histories of Laurel Hill Cemetery, West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Bringhurst and Turner Funeral Home are extraordinary; they are histories of exceptional service to the people of Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs, histories of the generations of those whose care has been entrusted to us, histories of funerary art, architecture, and customs, and histories of the complex social, cultural, economic, and industrial fabric of Philadelphia.

John Jay Smith, a Quaker and librarian of The Library Company of Philadelphia, founded Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1836 after he was unable to locate the final resting place of his daughter in a city cemetery.According to Smith’s diary it was this that “…determined me to endeavor to procure for the citizens a suitable, neat and orderly location for a rural cemetery designed by Scottish architect John Notman with spectacular views of the Schuylkill River, Laurel Hill Cemetery was situated in a picturesque setting well outside the city.The cemetery increasingly became a popular site not only for burials but for those looking for a place to enjoy carriage rides, strolls and picnics away from the crowded city.The expansion of Fairmount Park in the 1860’s prevented further growth at Laurel Hill Cemetery and in 1869 the first burial took place at West Laurel Hill Cemetery just outside the city limits in neighboring Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County.

As with Laurel Hill, John Jay Smith chose the location of West Laurel Hill for its unique geographical character.Nearly 200 acres of gently rolling hills and mature trees and plantings together with historic architectural features, hundreds of mausoleums, sculptures and wildlife create a true year-round pleasure garden.Principal landmarks on the grounds include the Bell Tower and Chapel of Peace.The Bell Tower was, built in 1887, by well-known Philadelphia partners Cope & Stewardson and carried on the beloved tradition of ringing bells to mark the time of day and the occasion of burial services. Built in 1938 by the architectural firm Watson & Thompson, the Chapel of Peace incorporated native building materials and a crematory, then a very forward-thinking concept.A state-of-the-art crematory replaced the original when the Chapel underwent renovations in 2011.

Privately owned and under the guidance of direct descendants of founder John Jay Smith, West Laurel Hill is a non-profit cemetery and funeral home which does not discriminate on the basis of age, creed, sex, gender identity, family or marital status, disability, race, ancestry, citizenship, place of origin, ethnic origin, citizenship, color or record of offenses.

Both cemeteries are home to generations of Philadelphians from all stations in life including well-known names past and present representing nearly every discipline – artists, architects, authors, doctors, musicians, politicians, scientists, war veterans, civic leaders, innovators in industry and more.Names such as Rittenhouse, Strawbridge and Widener are certainly of local interest, but Breyer, Luden, Stetson and Whitman are brands known across the country – a little something for all our visitors!

R.R. Bringhurst and Company was founded in 1822 by Philadelphia coach and carriage maker Robert Ralston Bringhurst.R.R. Bringhurst and Company was originally located in center city Philadelphia.In1994, West Laurel Hill Cemetery purchased Bringhurst Funeral Home while under the leadership of William Sickel and Andrew Bair. William Sickel continues with us today as Supervisor carrying our tradition of impeccable service into its 192nd year.In 1997, the present funeral home was erected on the grounds of the cemetery.

With this merging of old and new, we established a level of service and convenience unmatched in the Philadelphia area while preserving the heritage of our family of companies and the legacies of the families we serve.