“Looking at these old graves makes me think how generation after generation of the same family are all gathered together. And that makes me think about how life goes on, but not about dying.”
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
One of Savannah’s must-see places isn’t in the Historic District, or even in Downtown Savannah. Bonaventure Cemetery is located in the community of Thunderbolt, between Savannah and Wilmington Island. Bonaventure Cemetery first gained publicity on a worldwide scale when it was featured in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But the fact is, Bonaventure has been a part of the fabric of Savannah for as long as anyone can remember.
Bonaventure Cemetery was originally a private commercial enterprise and was named “Evergreen Cemetery.” The cemetery was first established in 1846 on the original Bonaventure Plantation. The cemetery first started out as 70 acres and was created as a result of Savannah’s other cemeteries approaching capacity. The Evergreen Cemetery was patterned after the Victorian design of cemeteries, with curving paths, grassy lots, and plenty of shade trees. Evergreen Cemetery was frequented by those who sought solace during times of bereavement. But the cemetery also served as a place for families to meet and gather for picnics.
In 1907, the City of Savannah purchased Evergreen Cemetery, making it the 4th of the 5 cemeteries that the city owns. The City of Savannah had the cemetery redesigned for more efficient maintenance and for more gravesite spaces. Bonaventure Cemetery has also expanded to 103 acres since its purchase.
Part of what makes Bonaventure Cemetery so special is the natural beauty of the space that it inhabits and that surrounds it. Located on a bluff overlooking the Bull River, Bonaventure Cemetery is home to majestic live oaks draped with Spanish moss and azalea bushes that bloom with riotous color in early spring.
Trails wind through Bonaventure Cemetery and along the bluff, and benches and seating areas are scattered throughout the cemetery. An entire day can easily be devoted to strolling among the graves and admiring the monuments, some of which are quite ornate and impressive. Bonaventure Cemetery is open year-round, and offers special after-dark tours during the Halloween season. To truly appreciate Savannah’s past and present, visit Bonaventure Cemetery.
330 Bonaventure Rd
Thunderbolt, GA 31404