Headstones – New York

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New York has plenty of big burial grounds but it is easy to miss New York’s lesser-known cemeteries, which tend to be a little run-down – the headstones eroding, the weeds overgrowing the stone and sandwiched between many newer buildings that have risen since. The first part of the city to become densely populated was Lower Manhattan, which is why many cemeteries can be found here. There are nearly one hundred cemeteries in New York in total. Generally, the cemeteries are either affiliated with churches or privately owned. When the city began to grow in the 1800s, a law was passed that prohibited further construction of cemeteries on Manhattan Island. Hence, cemeteries were constructed in western Queens from this time on due to its proximity to the city.Here is a list of the smaller cemeteries:

- New York Marble Cemetery
- New York City Marble Cemetery
- The Amiable Child Monument
- Prospect Cemetery
- Second Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue
- Brinckerhoff Cemetery
- Moore-Jackson Cemetery
- St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery
- Revolutionary War Cemetery
- The Reformed Church Of Staten Island
- Trinity Church Cemetery & Mausoleum

The oldest public non-sectarian cemetery is the New York Marble Cemetery (not to be confused with the New York City Marble Cemetery). It can be found in Manhattan’s East Village. Most of the burials here date back to the time between 1830 and 1870. With its approximately two thousand burial sites and its very small entrance gates It is also known as the “smallest burial ground in Manhattan”. At the time people believed that corpses caused yellow fever outbreaks, so most people were buried in underground vaults made of white Tuckahoe marble. It is also called Inwood marble or Westchester marble. It originates in Westchester County, New York and was first discovered in 1822. Many considered it to be the highest quality marble due to its purity – it was nearly purely white in colour. The burial vaults at both the New York Marble Cemetery and the New York City Marble Cemetery were constructed with it. Amongst other things, it was also used for the construction of churches and cathedrals as well as a schoolhouse, post offices and halls. Constructing buildings with marble was considered a sign of wealth, as the most common building material at the time was wood. Only wealthier people or organisations were able to afford stone (such as schist or sandstone) or brick and later, marble.

For people interested in Jazz, Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx could be worthwhile to visit. Duke Ellington and Miles Davis are buried here, amongst others. The cemetery as such dates back to 1863.

Peter Stuyvesant is resting at St. Mark’s church’s cemetery also in the East Village – and apparently his ghost is still haunting the churchyard.

Even a pet cemetery can be found in New York. It is located in Hartsdale and is the first pet cemetery in the U.S. It was founded by veterinarians and serves as a final resting place for more than seventy thousand pet animals.

Another interesting cemetery is the City Cemetery at Hart Island, but it is not open to the public. 800.000 unmarked graves can be found here – of stillborns, unidentified bodies, infants and amputated limbs.

The only active cemetery left in northern Manhattan is the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum. It overlooks the Hudson River. Many notable people are buried here. In 1842 it was established by the parish of Trinity Church. After the region had experienced outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases, burials in Lower Manhattan were prohibited and the new cemetery opened.

One of the first rural cemeteries in America was Green-Wood. It was established in 1838 and became internationally known for its beauty. It attracted 500.000 visitors a year, which made it nearly as popular as the Niagara Falls. It consists of 478 acres of magnificent landscape – including ponds, valleys and hills. More than 560.000 people have been buried here, including Leonard Bernstein. It is also a Revolutionary War historic site where the Battle of Long Island was fought. In 2006 the United States Department of the Interior declared it to be a National Historic Landmark.

Gravestone and Monuments - New York

Some gravestones just show names and dates, other monuments tell a story about the deceased, some feature a picture or ornaments – memorials are a very personal piece of art.

In Europe, the Romans already buried their loved ones, and ancient gravestones can still be found there. The Christians first started to bury aristocrats under their churches, but normal citizens were buried in the adjacent church graveyards where grave markers were erected.