The Olšany area became rather important for Prague citizens after 1679 when the then-owner, Jakub Štika, sold a land lot to the Old Town Community to facilitate the burials of the victims of plague, ravaging in Prague at the time. This gave rise to large cemeteries whose development was aided by the ban on burying the dead within the city of Prague, imposed in 1786 by Joseph II. The plague cemetery was converted to a public burial ground. The original entrance to the cemeteries was by the Baroque ellipsoid church of St. Roch built in 1680 to 1682. The area around the church is the oldest part of the cemeteries, and presents a number of valuable specimens of funeral sculpture by František Ignác Platzer, František Xaver Lederer, Václav Práchner and other artists. Entrances from the Vinohradská Avenue were established in the 19th century to provide access to the new cemetery sections. There is an 1894 ceremonial hall by Karel Ankert and the former crematorium, converted to a new ceremonial hall adapted in 1921 from the original 1898 Neo-Renaissance shrine near the crossing with Želivského. The cemeteries extend beyond the present Jana Želivského Street. Besides civil cemeteries, there are military interment grounds of honour for soldiers who died in both World Wars, the remains of the soldiers transferred from the Karlín military cemetery, a Russian burial ground with a 1920’s orthodox church and a cemetery of the Czechoslovak soldiers active in the Western resistance during WWII.
In 1909, the “Crematorium” association was founded in Žižkov. The Prague Council passed a decision to build a crematorium in 1920. However, the Catholic church was against it so the crematorium had to be built on municipal land. The building selected for the purpose was the Olšany Municipal Hall (old ceremonial hall today) built to the design by architect Nevole and intended for burials of people of other than Roman Catholic creed. The first cremation took place on November 23, 1921, followed by ten thousand more over the next six years. Urn groves opened at the same time. In 1922, Olšany cemeteries received a municipal columbarium. However, the capacity of the Olšany crematorium was no longer sufficient by the late 1920’s so a decision was passed to build a new crematorium in Strašnice (1932).