Here’s a neighborhood old-timer for you. The New York Marble Cemetery, which turns 184 years old this year, was developed in 1830 as the first privately owned, nonsectarian cemetery in New York City. We shared some great old photos in this past Off the Grid post. The cemetery can be hard to spot, but if you happen to be walking on Second Avenue between East 2nd and 3rd Streets, you’ll spot the gated entrance to this hidden treasure.
This year GVSHP is proud to be giving the New York Marble Cemetery, Inc. a Village Award at our Monday, June 16th ceremony. We hope you’ll join us (RSVP here) to celebrate!
And there’s lots to celebrate here. After a century of neglect, the cemetery is undergoing a major restoration befitting its status as a New York City Landmark and its place on the National Register of Historic Places (learn more on our Resources page).
There are 156 marble vaults that have accommodated over 2,000 burials. Caskets must be biodegradable, which allows for many burials per vault. Each vault belongs to the heirs of the original owner, and some have expressed interest in recent years to be buried here (the last burial took place in 1937).
Many people of note were laid to rest here, including Uriah Scribner, father of the publisher; Aaron Clark, New York’s first Whig mayor; Congressman and NYU President James Tallmadge; and Benjamin Wright, father of American Civil Engineering. The night before he was buried in the nearby New York City Marble Cemetery (and later moved to his native Virginia), President James Monroe’s body was kept here overnight.
The New York Marble Cemetery saw the East Village turn from a fashionable, upscale residential neighborhood when it was first developed to a more densely populated immigrant neighborhood by the mid-to-late 19th century. By the end of the 20th century, only one active Trustee remained: Peter C. Luquer, an architect from Vermont. His hard work, in addition to others who you will learn more about at our Awards ceremony, was vital in saving the cemetery and eventually getting it to a point where today there are eight active trustees.
The cemetery grounds are open to the public during its regular Open Gate Days once a month in the spring and summer, and the cemetery has participated in Open House New York every year since its inception. It is hoped that with continued owner interest and funding, the cemetery can open to the public more often. In addition to being a nice place to relax in the midst of a busy city, the space is available for rental for weddings, fashion shows, and TV shoots.
Please join us in congratulating the New York Marble Cemetery, Inc. for all its hard work in bringing this East Village treasure back to the beautiful urban oasis it is! There’s lots more to discover about the people who are leading the effort to restore the cemetery and what their plans are for its future. Don’t miss the Village Awards next Monday, June 16th at the New School auditorium – RSVP today!