New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cold Stone

I've walked the East Village for decades, but was completely unfamiliar with these cemeteries until recently, when I visited as part of Open House New York. The New York Marble Cemetery (1830) and the New York City Marble Cemetery (1831) are the two oldest non-sectarian burial grounds in NYC. The older of the two, the New York Marble Cemetery, is very easy to miss. The entrance/walkway is a narrow alley between two buildings on 2nd Avenue (at what was once known as 41½ Second Avenue) with two iron gates leading to a unique secret garden cemetery. No gravestones were placed on the ground; instead, marble plaques set into the cemetery’s long north and south walls give the names of the families interred nearby. All burials are in 156 below-ground vaults made of solid white Tuckahoe marble. In response to fears about yellow fever outbreaks, legislation had outlawed earth graves, so marble vaults the size of small rooms were built ten feet underground in the excavated interior of the block bounded by 2nd Ave, 2nd St., 3rd St. and the Bowery. Access to the 156 family vaults is by the removal of stone slabs set below the grade of the lawn. Approximately 2,060 people are buried there. Most of the interments took place between 1830 and 1870; the last was in 1937. This cemetery was initially so popular, a second, the New York City Marble Cemetery was opened around the corner on 2nd Street (bottom two photos). There are many similarities between these two independent cemeteries (such as the underground vaults) but this one may be readily seen through a handsome iron fence with gate, extending along its south side on East Second Street between First and Second Avenues. It is surrounded by a high brick wall and by houses and tenements on three sides. Also, there are a few large grave stones. What's interesting about these cemeteries, is that at the time of their establishment the area was anticipated to develop into a fashionable district. In fact quite the opposite happened with the area becoming dominated with tenements and the cemeteries neglected. Eventually they gained landmark status. And the neighborhood finally improved. But that's another story ...

7 comments:

Lucy said...

Interesting story. I find that very old burial grounds have a peaceful feeling and put things in perspective, at least temporarily...

Greg said...

Great capture! I'd be interested in hearing the "other story" regarding the neighborhood improvements...

claudine said...

J'adore ces endroits secrets et paisibles. Ces deux cimetières sont situés dans East Village. Y en a -t-il dans chaque quartier? Je vois qu'ils ne sont pas toujours accessibles. C'est peut-être mieux si ces lieux ne sont pas trop ouverts au public! Claudine

• Eliane • said...

Brian, did I tell you that I love your blog? I always learn something! You bring us in places I have yet to discover and shame me on my ridiculously small knowledge of the city. My list of things to visit keeps on growing. I probably need to venture south of 42nd street a tad more frequently...

Runa said...

I´m a fan of your blog and it was time to sign my name here ! I´ve been to NYC few times but you definately have showed me a different site of the city ! Thank you for that ! Keep up the good work !

-Runa-

Monika N. said...

I peeked into this cemetery (from the closed gates, of course). A nice man from the nearby burial parlor came out of the *store* and gave me a pamphlet about the Marble Cemetery. A very lovely memory! Love your pics. It completes the whole thing for me ^-^ .

lucia said...

Great investment opportunity in Costa Rica, beach front condos, condo beach, costarican real estate
Visit us for more information at www.jaco-bay.com