Daily Archives: April 28, 2012

Kickstart a Documentary about a Cemetery

Prospect Cemetery trailer

You can help fund a project to document Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, Queens, New York:

Director’s Statement: Peter Riegert

I discovered Prospect Cemetery in the pages of Cornelia Read’s novel Invisible Boy, based on an actual 1989 murder case. Cornelia heard the story over twenty years ago when a friend introduced her to Cate Ludlam, president of the Prospect Cemetery Association.

For the last twenty-three years, Cate has worked as a volunteer to rescue this abandoned burial site from the ravages of vandalism, neglect, and nature’s relentless encroachment. A grant was secured last year to have decades’ worth of debris, fallen trees, and invasive weeds and vines hand-cleared from Prospect’s four-and-a-half acres.

Cornelia introduced me to Cate and Prospect board member Andrew Farren several months ago to advise them on creating a video record of the reclamation project. When they took me to see Prospect, however, I found myself deeply moved by the mystery and history of this beguiling ruin and we soon decided that a documentary seemed more appropriate.

I started talking about the project with friends and colleagues who shared their own impassioned stories about long-forgotten people and places, and why posterity and preservation matter.

Our intent is not just to tell the history of the cemetery, but to use this place as a prism to refract the many themes that are part of Prospect. We want to interview historians, artists, writers, poets, archaeologists, and others for insight into this most mysterious part of every life: the end.

Prospect’s History

Located in Jamaica, New York, Prospect Cemetery is the oldest burial ground in the borough of Queens, and among the oldest in New York City.

When you stand at the center of this uneven, wooded ground, you’re in direct contact with the New York of 350 years ago. It’s a small remnant of what was here before the city existed, before skyscrapers and police sirens, subways and concrete.

In 1655, fourteen English families traded two guns, a coat, and a handful of ammunition with the local Lenape Indians for acreage alongside Beaver Pond and founded the village of Jamaica. Peter Stuyvesant officially recognized their settlement the following year, and we know that the villagers were using Prospect’s land as a burial ground by 1668.

Memorialized here are Americans from every walk of life: parents and children, servants, laborers, and bosses… veterans of every American war from the Revolution through World War II, statesmen who shaped the colonies into a nation, and artists, actors, and writers who helped create our culture.

Here’s the Kickstarter link.

Here’s the link to the Prospect Cemetery Association.