Douglas Keister started out as a photographer, but it wasn’t until nearly a decade ago that he married his profession with two of his passions: writing and cemeteries. To Keister, who has documented both foreign and domestic resting places from Scotland and Italy to Oakland and Dixieland, cemeteries are “pure environments, [they’re] extremely evocative.”
This year, Keister published his latest deceased-themed work, Stories in Stone New York: A Field Guide to New York City Cemeteries and their Residents. We picked Keister’s brain to come up with his picks for the best burial grounds below 14th Street.
Keister’s Digs for the Departed
Located in Lower Manhattan, this leafy plot dates back to the late 1600s and its famous residents, of course, are a collection of distinguished Caucasian men. The notables laid to rest here include Alexander Hamilton; though never a president, Hamilton served as aide to President George Washington, was the first U.S. secretary of the treasury and founded the Bank of New York. Among the other points of interest at this cemetery is the headstone of 5-year-old Robert Churcher (1676-1681), said to be the oldest in the churchyard.
St. Paul’s Chapel
The St. Paul’s Chapel crowd might be less illustrious than Trinity’s, but the space is no less green and meditative. Publisher John Holt (1721-1784) and actor George Frederick Cooke (1756-1812) found a final home here.
St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery
Despite a lack of headstones, this site is home to an underground burial vault that houses one of New York’s more famous founders: Petrus, or Peter, Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant served as the last director general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, present-day New York. He converted the property into a family chapel in 1660. The crowd at the St. Mark’s crypt is a collection of political bigwigs, including Vice President Daniel Tompkins (1774-1825).
New York City Marble Cemetery
Not to be confused with the nearby New York Marble Cemetery (located at 41½ Second Ave.), this plot was started in 1831 and is comprised of a series of roughly 258 vaults. While the cemetery contains many impressive monuments to mark its crypts, the most famous person interred there was President James Monroe. Though his remains were eventually reburied in Virginia, a monument bearing his name still stands at the site.
While the location of the first Shearith Israel cemetery remains unknown, it is known that the congregation, mostly Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent, was given a small piece of land in New Amsterdam in the mid-1600s for their dead. Their second burial site, used from 1805 to 1829, is still standing in Greenwich Village, though significantly smaller than its original acreage. Though the residents aren’t notable per se, the uniqueness of this plot makes it a destination.
The Trinity Churchyard in Lower Manhattan boasts one of Downtown’s more famous departed residents, Alexander Hamilton.
PHOTO BY DOUGLAS KEISTER
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, Bank of New York, cemetaries, cemeteries, Congregation Shearith Israel Cemeteries, Daniel Tompkins, Dixieland, Douglas Keister, George Frederick Cooke, Greenwich Village, Italy, John Holt, Lower Manhattan, New Netherland, New York Marble Cemetery, Oakland, Peter Stuyve, Petrus, Portuguese, President George Washington, President James Monroe, Robert Churcher, Scotland, Spanish, St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, St. Paul's C, St. Paul’s Chapel, Stories in Stone New York, Trinity Church, Virginia, writing
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