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  • Abigail Brenker

The History of NYC's Calvary Cemetery


Hello There,


In an effort to fill the filmmaking void in our hearts, Alan and I made a little video about Calvary Cemetery - which happens to be the cemetery with the most internments in the United States.


Enjoy!


All my love,

Abby

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Script/Transcript below:

New York City’s Calvary Cemetery has a very interesting history. If you visit today, you’ll see a historic cemetery with Manhattan’s skyline as a backdrop. Many people use the land as green space in the city, using its paved roads as walking and bike paths. We only saw several of the 71 sections.


In the early 1800s a cemetery on Mott Street in Manhattan was nearing capacity. The owners, the Trustees of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral knew they needed to expand. Around the same time, the city was faced with a cholera epidemic and sadly needed to do something to increase burial sites. The state of New York passed the Rural Cemetery Act in 1847 that allowed for the burial of human remains to become a business for the first time.


The board of trustees of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral purchased land in Queens to turn into a cemetery.

Calvary Cemetery was officially opened in 1848. It’s spread across 365 acres of land, an expansion from the original 71 acres. It has approximately 3 million interments which makes it the cemetery with the most burial sites within the United States.


The cemetery now belongs to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and is still managed by the trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


The first person to be buried at Calvary Cemetery was Esther Ennis on July 31st 1848. Her cause of death is listed as “a broken heart.” Annie More is also buried here, known as the first person to pass through Ellis Island.


After its opening, the cemetery was burying up to 50 people a day. Many, many of those - just under half - were poverty stricken Irish children under the age of seven.


Because the influenza and tuberculosis epidemics took so many lives, grave diggers couldn't keep up with the need..and family members were forced to dig the graves for their loved ones themselves. At this time it cost between $3 and $7 to be buried at Calvary Cemetery depending on your age. In the mid 1800s bodies were also transferred from a Manhattan cemetery to Calvary in Queens to make room for new land development.

Calvary is still an active cemetery with new burials and planned expansions. You can visit everyday between 9:00am and 4:30pm.

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