Tag Archives: Trinity Churchyard

A Good Guide to the Cemeteries of New York

Permanent New Yorkers: A Biographical Guide to the Cemeteries of New YorkPermanent New Yorkers: A Biographical Guide to the Cemeteries of New York by Judi Culbertson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the second of Culbertson and Randall’s “Permanent” series, exploring the permanent residents of Paris, California, Italy, and London. This one feels like it covers a vast amount of territory, from offering multiple tours of Green-Wood and Woodlawn to capsule suggestions of quick trips to the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery, Belmont Racetrack, and the Quaker Cemetery of Brooklyn.

Some of the choices are strange. There’s a scant paragraph about the New York Marble Cemetery, which holds the remnants of 40 cemeteries that were destroyed to make room for the City’s growth. It makes me wonder if the authors found the cemetery closed when they visited, as I did in June. Strawberry Fields in Central Park rates more description, even though the authors admit that John Lennon’s ashes aren’t buried there. The Hart’s Island Potter’s Field is included for the sake of completeness, I suppose, even though I’d be surprised if most tourists could or would want to try to visit it.

Which may be the split between the authors’ intention for this book and the way I want to use it. It’s not a guidebook, in that it doesn’t include cemetery addresses, opening hours, or suggestions for how to visit the cemeteries listed inside. It doesn’t include enough photographs of the graves or graveyards and spends page after page on biographies of people like Judy Garland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Malcolm X. Maybe it’s meant to be an armchair travel book.

My quest for the perfect New York City cemetery guide continues — but this was an excellent reference to read in the hotel room between cemetery explorations.

You can find used copies at Amazon here: Permanent New Yorkers: A Biographical Guide to the Cemeteries of New York.

Click on the Book Review category in the blog’s right column to see all my cemetery book reviews.

Cemeteries of New York on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #11: General Grant National Monument

Cemetery of the Week #17: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #33: The Old Dutch Burying Ground

Cemetery of the Week #41: Trinity Churchyard

Cemetery of the Week #53: Green-Wood Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #65: the African Burial Ground

Cemetery of the Week #75: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard

A Guide to New York City Cemeteries

The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian's Guide to New York City CemeteriesThe Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to New York City Cemeteries by Carolee Inskeep

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In its history, New York City has dug up and covered over dozens of burial grounds. Carolee Inskeep tracked them down. Written encyclopedia-style, The Graveyard Shift lists hundreds of graveyards, along with years of usage and some brief historical information. Since Inskeep’s book is designed for family historians, she includes information on where records can be found and contact information.

My chief complaint about the text is that it includes no illustrations: no photos of famous New Yorkers, no beautiful gravestones, no historic photos or other ephemera. The loss is more keenly felt since the little cover photo of a graveyard chock-full of simple crosses and grieving muses — with the Empire State Building rising behind — is really perfect for the book. In my edition, the photo is neither identified or credited. I am guessing it’s taken from Queens. Please correct me if that’s wrong: it’s a place I’d love to see for myself.

You can order your own copy of The Graveyard Shift from Amazon: The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to New York City Cemeteries

View all my reviews

Cemetery of the Week #41: Trinity Churchyard

Alexander Hamilton’s grave

Trinity Churchyard
74 Trinity Place (Broadway at Wall Street)
New York, NY 10006
Founded: prior to 1697
Number of interments: Tens of thousands, according to The Graveyard Shift
Open: Weekdays 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Holidays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3.

One of the oldest surviving graveyards in Manhattan is Trinity Churchyard, at the head of Wall Street. The original New Yorkers used the area north of the church as a graveyard even before the King of England granted land to the parish in 1697. Three centuries later, skyscrapers overshadow the spire of the old church and its beautiful old tombstones.

The most famous permanent resident of Trinity Churchyard is Alexander Hamilton, who served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp, commanded troops at the Battle of Yorktown, became the first Secretary of the Treasury and conceived a plan to pay off the debts incurred during the Revolutionary War. He died in 1804 died after a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr.

The original monument still marks Hamilton’s grave, erected by the Vestrymen of Trinity Church, who I’m sure were thrilled to score such an illustrious addition to their churchyard. Hamilton’s epitaph reads, “The Corporation of Trinity Church Has erected this Monument In Testimony of their Respect For The Patriot of incorruptible Integrity, The Soldier of approved Valor, the Statesman of consummate Wisdom, Whose Talents and Virtues will be admired By Grateful Posterity Long after this Marble shall have mouldered into Dust.”

Other historic personages buried in the old churchyard were not immediately celebrated by their contemporaries. Francis Lewis, the only signer of the Declaration of Independence buried on Manhattan Island, lies in Trinity Churchyard somewhere. Trinity’s Register of Burials lists him, without noting the location of his grave. Instead, he’s remembered by a bronze plaque placed near the church in 1947 by the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration. Also buried here is Robert Fulton, a painter who developed the first practical steamboat as well as a submarine for use in torpedo attack. In 1901, eighty-six years after Fulton’s death, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers erected a monument to him.

Remembered at the time of his death was William Bradford, the first man in the Colonies to assert the freedom of the press. On his 200th birthday in 1863, an exact copy replaced his original gravestone at the behest of the New York Historical Society. That same pride in the city’s history shielded Trinity Churchyard’s priceless real estate from changes that might have engulfed it.

You can pick up a cemetery guide inside the church. The church encourages people to eat their lunches on the cemetery benches and to come inside for a service or to see the crypt. A schedule of events, including concerts or readings of Shakespeare, is online here.

Useful links:

A History of Trinity Episcopal Church

Photos of the church and churchyard

Gravestones of Trinity Churchyard

Books I’ve reviewed that reference Trinity Churchyard:

The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to New York City Cemeteries

Permanent New Yorkers

Graveyards of Colonial New York City on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #65: the African Burial Ground

Cemetery of the Week #73: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard