A Traveler's Guide to the Bonaventure Cemetery

The entrance to the famous St. Bonaventure Cemetary.
••• Daniela Duncan / Getty Images
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    Visiting Bonaventure Cemetery

    Bonaventure Cemetery sits upon a bluff above the Wilmington River east of Savannah. When the land was owned by Colonel Mullryne, beginning in 1762, and later by his son-in-law, it was an elegant plantation.

    A historically popular destination for visitors because of its folklore, moss-draped oak trees and hauntingly beautiful sculpture, Bonaventure Cemetery's tourism activity increased dramatically with the success of the bestselling novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The statue, known as Bird Girl (not the one pictured above) featured on the cover of the book, had to be moved from the cemetery for safe keeping and may now been seen at the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah.

    Bonaventure Cemetery Location: 330 Bonaventure Road, Savannah, Georgia

    Directions from Liberty Street in Savannah: Travel East on Liberty Street for a little over a mile onto Wheaton Street. From Wheaton Street, take a slight right onto Skidaway Road and then left onto East 36th Street. East 36th Street...MORE becomes Bonaventure Road. Stay on Bonaventure Road until you reach the Cemetery entrance at 330 Bonaventure Road. Distance - Approximately 4 1/2 miles.

    Guided Tours: Bonaventure Cemetery is very large and visitors who have limited time may wish to consider a guided tour, a good way to see the most famous gravesites and learn about Savannah's history. The Bonaventure Historical Society offers regularly scheduled tours and several tour companies include visits to Bonaventure Cemetery in their tour itineraries.

    Self-Guided Tours: Maps are available online and at the Cemetery for visitors who wish to explore at a relaxed, self-guided pace.

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    Bonaventure Cemetery Photographs - Little Gracie Watson Gravesite

    Little Gracie Watson - One of the most beloved memorial sculptures in Bonaventure Cemetery
    ••• Little Gracie Watson Gravesite Sculpture. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Little Gracie Watson: A stone memorial marker, located at the gravesite of the child known as Little Gracie Watson, offers a brief description of her short life, the circumstances of her death and information about the creation of this beautiful memorial sculpture as follows:

    Little Gracie Watson was born in 1883, the only child of her parents. Her father was ​manager of the Pulaski House, one of Savannah's leading hotels, where the beautiful and charming little girl was a favorite with the guests. Two days before Easter, in April 1889, Gracie died of pneumonia at the age of six. In 1890, when the rising sculptor, John Walz, moved to Savannah, he carved from a photograph this life-sized, delicately detailed marble statue, which for almost a century has captured the interest of all passersby.

    Because the sculpture has attracted the attention of so many visitors to Bonaventure Cemetery, an iron fence encloses the gravesite for safe keeping. 

    Location: The Gracie Watson Burial Site is...MORE located at Lot 99 in Section E, off of Mullryne Way.

    Sculptor John Walz (1844-1922): Savannah sculptor, John Walz, created many other beautiful funerary monuments found in Bonaventure Cemetery, many of which are located along the Cemetery Street, Walz Way, named in his honor. He also created stone architectural sculptures and relief ornaments for many of Savannah's public buildings. Sadly, he is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in a grave without a headstone.

     

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    Bonaventure Cemetery Photographs - Johnny Mercer Gravesite

    Gravesite of popular singer, songwriter and lyricist, Johnny Mercer
    ••• Gravesite of popular singer, songwriter and lyricist, Johnny Mercer. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    John Herndon Johnny Mercer (November 18, 1909 – June 25, 1976): The Mercer family plot, which includes the gravesite of popular singer, songwriter and lyricist Johnny Mercer, is one of the most visited sites at Bonaventure Cemetery. Born and raised in Savannah, Johnny Mercer was one of America's most prolific songwriters, producing many of the top hits from the 1930s to the mid-1960s, including four Academy Award winners for Best Song:

    • On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (1946) for The Harvey Girls - Music by Harry Warren
    • In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening (1951) for Here Comes The Groom - Music by Hoagy Carmichael
    • Moon River (1961) for Breakfast at Tiffany's - Music by Henry Mancini
    • Days of Wine and Roses (1962) for Days of Wine and Roses - Music by Henry Mancini

    Location: The Johnny Mercer Burial Site is located at Lot 48 in Section H, along Johnny Mercer Lane.

     

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    Bonaventure Cemetery Photographs - Conrad Potter Aiken Gravesite

    Conrad Aiken Family Plot
    ••• Conrad Aiken Family Plot. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Conrad Potter Aiken (August 5, 1889 – August 17, 1973): Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, Conrad Aiken was an American poet, a writer of novels, short stories and essays, and a literary critic. Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1889, he was moved at the age of 11 to Cambridge, Massachusetts to live with an aunt, following the tragic murder-suicide of his parents, when his father, without warning, shot his wife and then himself. In his later years, Conrad Aiken returned to Savannah, where he lived next door to his childhood home.

    A bench placed by Aiken in the Bonaventure Cemetery family plot takes the place of a headstone. It is inscribed with the words:

    Cosmos Mariner
    Destination Unknown

    Conrad Porter Aiken
    Born in Savannah, GA. August 5, 1889
    Died in Savannah, GA. August 17, 1973
    Mary Hoover Aiken
    December 11, 1905 - October 22, 1992

    Give My Love to the World

    In the same plot, the double headstone of Conrad Aiken's parents is inscribed with identical dates of death for each parent,...MORE February 27, 1901, standing as a solemn reminder of the early tragedy of the poet's traumatic childhood.

    Location: The Conrad Aiken Burial Site is located at Lot 78 in Section H, where Johnny Mercer Lane meets Aiken Lane.

     

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    Bonaventure Cemetery Photographs - Alexander Robert Lawton Gravesite

    Alexander Robert Lawton Gravesite
    ••• Alexander Robert Lawton Gravesite. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Alexander Robert Lawton (November 5, 1818-July 2, 1896): Overlooking the picturesque Wilmington River, the Lawton family plot includes a sculpture of Jesus standing beside a grand arched gateway. Alexander R. Lawton was an important figure in Savannah's history, having held the positions of ​lawyer, President of the Augusta and Savannah Railroad, Brigadier General in the Army of the Confederacy, politician, and President of the American Bar Association.

    Another lovely sculpture depicts his eldest daughter, Corinne Elliott Lawton (born September 21, 1846, died January 24, 1877), sitting gracefully beside a cross. The pedestal is inscribed with the words:

    Allured to brighter worlds
    and led the way
    .

    Location: This gravesite is located on the bluff beside the Wilmington River at Lot 168 in Section H.

     

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    Young Angel Holding a Scallop Shell

    Young Angel Holding a Scallop Shell
    ••• Young Angel Holding a Scallop Shell. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    There are many beautiful sculptures of angels located throughout Bonaventure Cemetery, including the above sculpture of a young angel holding a large scallop shell.

    The following Bible verse is inscribed on a curved wall behind the angel:

    "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not
    receive the kingdom of God as a little child
    he shall not enter therein."
    St. Mark 10 CH 15 V

     

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    Angel with Changing Expressions

    Viewed from different angles, this angel's expressions appear to change.
    ••• Viewed from different angles, this angel's expressions appear to change. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    At a first view, this beautiful angel appears to have a heartbreaking expression of sorrow and anguish. However, as pointed out by our tour guide, when viewed from other angles, her expression softens, becoming more peaceful and contemplative.

     

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    Taliaferro - Angel and Cross

    Angel and Cross
    ••• Angel and Cross. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    This lovely memorial sculpture, inscribed with the Taliaferro family name, depicts an angel delicately gesturing toward a cross. While very beautiful, it is distressing to note that this elegantly sculpted piece has suffered quite a bit of damage, particularly on the hands and on the tops of the wings.

     

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    Sculpture and Nature

    Sculpture of a Woman and Cross
    ••• Sculpture of a Woman and Cross. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The time-worn patina and staining of this beautiful sculpture create a wonderful visual effect against the mossy cascades of a majestic live oak tree in the background. This sculpture, which is inscribed with the family name of Ehrlicher, stands high on a tall pedestal, enhancing the stunning interplay of sculpture and nature.

     

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    Stained Glass Detail

    Stained Glass Detail
    ••• Stained Glass Detail. Photo Credit: © 2007 George Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    In addition to all of the wonderful funerary sculpture, there are many small mausoleums or tombs located in Bonaventure Cemetery. Many of these memorial structures feature symbolic and ornate details, such as this lovely stained glass window as seen through a decorative metal door.

    More about Decorative Ironwork in Savannah