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Landmarks50: A Pre-Halloween Trip to Our Historic Cemeteries

NYC marble cem
The New York City Marble Cemetery, on 2nd Street between First and Second Avenues. It’s open to the public several days each year. Photo by Bobby Williams, courtesy evgrieve.com.

This year the city is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Law that created the legal framework to preserve for posterity the architectural and scenic treasures that help make our city so aesthetically and culturally rich.

In the East Village, two historic cemeteries were designated as individual landmarks in 1969, not long after the law was passed in 1965. They are close in distance, and have nearly the same name, but are different in character, and quite distinct to the families whose lineages are connected to these peaceful plots.

While generally closed to the public, the New York Marble Cemetery and New York City Marble Cemetery are open next weekend as part of Open House New York, the annual “behind the scenes” look at special sites around the metropolis. Click here for the cemeteries’ open hours on October 17 or 18.

This aerial shot of a wedding in New York Marble Cemetery shows how it is located on the interior of a block. The entrance, on Second Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets, leads down a narrow walkway before opening up into the cemetery. Photo courtesy New York Marble Cemetery.

The designation report for the New York Marble Cemetery says: “This obscure and dignified cemetery, once located in a fashionable neighborhood, is largely surrounded by houses and tenements today. …Established in 1832, it was used as a place of interment by some of New York’s oldest families. On the east portion of the wall surrounding the cemetery, there was an inscription testifying that it was a ‘place of interment for gentlemen.'”  The New York City Marble Cemetery is located in the interior of the block bounded by 2nd Avenue and the Bowery, East 2nd and 3rd Streets, with a small gated entrance on 2nd Avenue.

This cemetery won a GVSHP Village Award in 2014.

The designation report for the New York City Marble Cemetery, which is larger, says it “was begun in 1831 and was the second non-sectarian burial ground in the City opened to the public. …When opened, it was considered a fashionable burial place, and the use of monuments and markers was permitted there to signalize the locations of the family vaults. It was laid out with long parallel walks between which are narrow strips of ground punctuated by the square marble vault slabs.”  The much more visible New York City Marble Cemetery is located on the north side of East 2nd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Go see these peaceful, not-too-spooky, but apparently very fashionable cemeteries next weekend.

Here’s the gate on lower Second Avenue that leads back to the cemetery. Photo courtesy of New York Marble Cemetery.

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