Friday, July 16, 2010

The New York Marble Cemetery


An interesting place I visited in Spring, but did not had time to blog about until today, is The New York Marble Cemetery, located at 41 and 1/2, Second Avenue, in the borough of Manhattan.  It is a small burial ground in Manhattan's East Village, and it is the oldest public non-sectarian cemetery in New York City.

(All photos can be enlarged for easier viewing by clicking on them once, and then again when they open on a new page. Use your browser's back arrow to return to the post.)


An informational plaque located on the front gates.  

The cemetery is usually open to visitors on fourth Sundays, April through October, from 11 until 3, as well as several other weekends throughout the year - check the schedule on this link.


Most of the cemetery is shielded from the avenue by the buildings that have sprung up around it over the years. Enter from 2nd Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets through a circa 1908 wrought iron gate. It leads to a walkway that is one hundred feet long leading to a circa 1854 gate with cast iron decoration .


Once inside you can see a large open garden space covered by grass.  An exhibition about the history of the cemetery was going on at the time of my visit. The cemetery was incorporated in 1831 in response to fears about yellow fever outbreaks at the time, when legislation had outlawed earth graves.  Marble vaults the size of small rooms were built ten feet underground in the excavated interior of the half acre of land that comprises the cemetery.


According to the cemetery's web site: "Half of the older caskets were tiny, holding children aged six and under. Contagious diseases such as scarlet fever, measles and whooping cough, as well as infections for which there were not yet antibiotics (erysipelas, pneumonia, cholera, etc.) contributed to a level of early mortality fortunately forgotten in most parts of the world. What would be termed symptoms today were then considered primary causes of death: dropsy (edema), congestion or inflammation of the lungs or brain, and dysentery or diarrhœa. For adults, the leading cause of death by far was tuberculosis, then known as consumption or phthisis pulmonalis. A surprising number of people who reached maturity, however, lived into their eighties and nineties, and invariably died of 'old age.' "


The walls of the cemetery are made from Tuckahoe marble, which was also used for the vaults, plaques and lintels, and gave the cemetery its name. Unfortunately, the marble is relatively soft material and many of the walls are rapidly disintegrating from time and acid rain.  Funds are being raised by the cemetery's board of trustees for the constant upkeep and renovations needed to preserve the cemetery.


All of the vaults are underground and the only name and vault makers are tablets like these on the walls.


Please enlarge this photo of a diagram that shows what the procedure for burial in the underground vaults would entail.


Above and below are part of the display in the cemetery the day I visited that shows portraits of the many of first people buried in the New York Marble Cemetery. 


One of the illustrious people buried in the cemetery is Doctor David Hosack, 1769-1835.  He was one of New York's most famous citizens of the time. Hosack was a founder of several New York institutions that survive to this day, including Bellevue Hospital and The New York Historical Society, and was a friend and confidante of some of the more distinguished citizens of the early Republic, including General Alexander Hamilton.  As the attending physician at the General’s duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, he cared for Hamilton in his last hours on earth. When Hosack bought a vault at the marble cemetery a few years before his death, other early New Yorkers flocked to do the same and, before too long, the cemetery had became the place to be buried in Manhattan.

By 1838, rural cemeteries, such as Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, quickly became the preference of most New York families, and soon the use of the Marble Cemetery declined. Most of the 2,070 interments took place between 1830 and 1870.  Now the cemetery’s quiet, half-acre grounds are available for rent for appropriate private or corporate events.

I found it a fascinating place to visit and another unexpected quiet green space amongst the bustling city streets. It was interesting to reflect upon the men and women buried there who were so influential in early New York history. Although I've lived in New York City my entire life I am constantly amazed by new discoveries that I make sometimes just by walking down a different street.  There is always something new to learn in this great city!



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30 comments:

~Cheryl said...

This is so very interesting! Not too sure if I would want to hold a social event there but would certainly be worth the time to visit. Looking forward to your next discovery!

Annalisa said...

:) what a beautiful place!
:) I agree with Cheryl about the social events, but it is nevertheless a great place to visit, and you always give to your photos and posts the "right angle" ..Just great!
Love,
Annalisa

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Very interesting, Pat.... I have never heard of this old cemetery... The vaults they used are interesting...

What a neat place to visit --just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city all around... That's a neat 'green space'...

Thanks for sharing.

Have a good weekend.
Hugs,
Betsy

Lynn said...

Once again, thanks for the enlightening tour!
I am from the cremate and toss to the wind school of thought, though.

The Muse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Muse said...

It said Marble and the first thought I had was a place where old marble designs were retired...
and then I realized no...
not the playing toys...
and slowly I read this...
"Half of the older caskets were tiny, holding children aged six and under."

How sad.
Lovely in a historical sense...
but sad.

Sarah said...

Pat, what an interesing post. I've never know of this, but will try to visit the next time I'm in NYC.
I'm off to catch up on some of the posts I've missed of late while away from a computer. ~ Sarah

Sheila said...

You do seem to find some unusual places in New York City Pat. I wonder how you know so much history. Is parking ever a problem? Thank for your response - think I'll do some reading about Italy and Prince Edward Island tonight.

Oliag said...

It is amazing all the little nooks and crannies of the city that you seem to find and post about....Wonderful post!

Vee said...

What I find interesting is that you are always finding these "secret" places in a city that you have lived in all your life. Now that's pretty wonderful. Thanks, as always, for sharing the history of this place.

myletterstoemily said...

cemeteries are such gold mines
of historical stories. imagine
building on top of one!

thank you for the sad but interesting
lesson.

love,
ela

Old Kitty said...

How fascinating!!! That's a tiny tiny cemetary but then you think of the vaults UNDERNEATH the city!! How incredible! And it's great that it's preserved for posterity and although still in use is a wonderful place to just sit and contemplate. It's incredible to think of how these very treatable diseases decimated so many only a couple of centuries ago (and still do in other parts of the world). There's a painting of a child (Anne Louise Tisdale Cornwallis)amongst those buried here - she looks so young and pretty - it's very sad!!

But this really is a fantastic hidden green gem so unique to NYC. Amazing.

Thanks again lovely Pat for another eye-opener that makes NYC so magical to me!

Take care
x

diane said...

I'm enjoying learning about NYC through your posts.

mbkatc230 said...

New York is such a fascinating place. I love that you continue to find unexpected gems even after having lived there your entire life. This looks like such a peaceful place in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. Interesting history, old cemeteries are such great gold mines of information about the past. Wonderful post. Kat

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

So many places of interest in your city...and such a wonderful tour guide. Thanks again, Pat!

Mary Ann said...

What a marvelous post. I love touring old cemeteries. Having lived in Louisiana most of my life, I have toured so many interesting ones.

Vagabonde said...

I think New York is like Paris where you can always find new secret places by turning the right corner. I love both cities and if I don’t visit them regularly I get withdrawal symptoms, really. Thanks for this most instructive post, it has everything I like – history, beautiful natural environment, lovely photographs and special meaning; you tell it so well too. Very nice indeed.

Shirleyanne said...

An amazing place Pat. A very suitable peaceful resting place. So much history to discover. A shame the marble is crumbling. Lets hope the appropriate funds can be raised to restore this.
Take care

My name is PJ. said...

Another place I'd not heard of! It's lovely and I imagine the vibes are mixed because of the number of children buried there. I like to imagine them all playing in heaven together.

Edie Marie's Attic said...

Hi Pat!

What an interesting place. I never knew such a place existed... thanks for the great post about it. We learn so much from you Pat! And your grandson sure is growing, what a cutie!!

Big hugs to you & Vinny! Sherry

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Pat, this was a fascinating tour of the cemetery. There is so much history to learn there.

Sorry I haven't been around lately. I've missed visiting.
Sam

NYC, Style and a little Cannoli said...

That is really neat! What a calm looking place. Something I would like to add to my "need to visit" list for sure! Hope you are having a great weekend.

Tracy said...

You take us to the best places, Pat! That is one of the pretties little cemeteries I've ever seen...such simplicity and serenity... I rather like the social events idea. I'm all for respect for the dead and reverence paid at cemeteries, but a little life add--not a bad thing! So nice to catch up with you again. Hubby & I are just back from a little weekend trip. Sifting though photos & highlights and hope to post soon. Happy Days, my friend :O) ((HUGS))

black eyed susans kitchen said...

This was fascinating! I love old cemeteries.
♥, Susan

Kathleen said...

You find the most amazing places! I never knew about this.
So when are you coming to Sag Harbor??
Fall is the best...all the tourists are gone!

Claudia said...

I remember this cemetery. And true to my 20-something mentallity, never did explore properly. Thanks for the info and re-visit. Amazing what you can find on one small plot of land.

Betty (picture circa 1951) said...

This was so fascinating. I enjoyed your wonderful pictures and description.

Sue said...

Wow, I've never heard of such a thing. This is extremely interesting. How DO you find all of these places, Pat? Simply amazing what we learn from you!
hugs, Sue

G-man said...

I was here. The G-man(of George and Carleen). In 4 yrs I will be doing this (not what Pat did, what you do. I intend to photo everything I can including finding old pictures of the way we were.

Dave said...

Found this little cemetery looking for my descendants from the Roosevelt family. Discovered my wife's descendant, Benjamin Wright, is interred here. Even found a picture of him...whoda thunk it?