Posts Tagged ‘cemetery vaults in New York’

A hidden cemetery in the East Village

June 28, 2010

Yellow fever had a big impact on the young city. Lethal outbreaks in the late 18th and early 19th centuries led officials to ban in-ground burials.

So New Yorkers opted to buy a plot in a cemetery and have their corpse stored in a marble vault (which were thought to prevent the spread of germs)—like the vaults at the New York Marble Cemetery.

The entrance is on Second Avenue between Second and Third streets; an alley leads you to a secret garden, a half-acre bounded by stone walls.

Those walls note who is buried in the vaults underground. They’re a bigwig lot: Varicks, Deys, Motts, Pecks, and Scribners.

Amazingly, this pastoral patch of the city was almost turned into a playground. In the 1890s, social reformer Jacob Riis pushed the city to seize the land for street kids who had no place to play.

The city didn’t bite, of course, and now there are two 19th century marble cemeteries in the East Village. The other, the New York City Marble Cemetery, is around the corner on Second Street.