An Open Day at the New York City Marble Cemetery

Green space has always been at a premium in New York City, and historically the public parks were few and far between. So where could the city’s residents relax on a summer Sunday afternoon, perhaps with a good book or a picnic? As strange as it may sound today, New Yorkers of the past often headed to the cemetery. Today, there are only a handful of of cemeteries in the borough of Manhattan (property values pushing most cemeteries to the outer boroughs), but there are still a few historic cemeteries around.

One special cemetery is the New York City Marble Cemetery, founded in 1831. The cemetery is designated a New York City Landmark and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the cemetery isn’t usually open to the public, there are designated “open” days several times a year. On those days, it is possible for visitors to experience life as it was in the nineteenth century, picnicking and relaxing in the park-like space.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the New York City Marble Cemetery on one of the open days. It was a beautiful day, and visitors had gathered to explore the cemetery and relax on its grounds. Here are some photos from my visit.

Want to visit the New York City Marble Cemetery yourself? It is located on East Second Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, between First and Second Avenues. The closest subway stop is the F train’s Second Avenue station, and the M15 bus runs up and down First and Second Avenues as well. Make sure you check the cemetery’s website, available here, for the dates that the cemetery is open to the public. (Note: There’s another historic cemetery named the New York Marble Cemetery, a short distance away on Second Avenue. It’s also open to the public on occasion.)


24 thoughts on “An Open Day at the New York City Marble Cemetery

  1. Why are graveyards such pleasant places to be? There was one in Newtown, Sydney, near where my daughter used to live, and she’d go there to study. One day when we were rambling through a pile of Goths we’re making some kind of movie there. Homeless men slept in the doorways. A real crossection of the community, alive as well as dead. Your marble cemetery looks lovely, and suitably worn.

  2. I have to say it’s a bit of a strange notion to me, but it does look like a very pleasant green space. You wouldn’t have to worry about being disturbed reading your book, would you? 🙂 🙂

    1. That is true! I guess that our expectations are shaped by our own experiences, aren’t they? I grew up thinking that spending time in a cemetery other than to remember the dead would be disrespectful, but that’s really not been the culture in New York City.

    1. I also learned that James Madison was interred here for a number of years after his death, until the decision was made in the 1850s to move his body to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Evidently he lived the last year’s of his life in NYC with his son-in-law, and this was where he died.

  3. Really very pretty. I spent many hours in a cemetery for an Archaeology project. We were looking at the ornateness of the headstones and the beliefs surrounding the dead. There were so many people in and out of the place–kids on bikes, people jogging, and etc.

  4. Old cemeteries always fascinate me – so many stories and history here. A peaceful place in which to wander – the gardens look nicely maintained here. Our local one is well known for all the kangaroos that live in the grounds!

  5. enjoyed your photos of the old cemetary and my fav part was the one with the people on the green lawn – a mix of old and new – and the living folks – sitting on that vibrant green – near those being remembered

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