City or town cemeteries were established on the outskirts of development, but they have since been devoured by New York’s sprawl. One that still exists is the Friends Quaker Cemetery in Prospect Park, which was originally established in 1849 on undeveloped farmland between Brooklyn and the town of Flatbush. Prospect Park opened in 1867, but the hundreds of graves were allowed to remain and burials continued for those in the Quaker community. Montgomery Clift, the star of “A Place in the Sun,” was buried here in 1966 at his Quaker mother’s request.
Two city cemeteries are still visible in the East Village just around the corner from each other: the New York Marble Cemetery (est. 1830) and the New York City Marble Cemetery (est. 1831). The nonsectarian graveyards held most of their burials in the mid-19th century and offered below ground interment in marble vaults in response to a yellow fever outbreak that is believed to have originated at Trinity Churchyard cemetery. Formed as fashionable places to be buried (President Monroe was briefly buried in the New York City Marble Cemetery), the surrounding neighborhood later deteriorated and some of the deceased were disinterred to the alluring new rural cemeteries in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (est. 1838) and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx (est. 1863) were designed to be not only beautiful places of memorial and commemoration, but also parks for the public. Pre-dating the opening of Central Park in 1857, Green-Wood offered spacious grounds and rolling, tree-crowded hills for picnics and carriage rides among tombs designed by some of the most prominent sculptors of the 19th century. These places of temporary and permanent repose were apart from daily life and offered massive spaces for burials.
Working Class Cemeteries
While affording little of the ornate aesthetics of the rural cemeteries, large working class cemeteries were also established in response to the shortage of burial grounds in Manhattan. They are often bordered by trains, roads, and airports or large businesses and factories, offering little of the peaceful park atmosphere of Green-Wood or Woodlawn. One of the most notable, Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, was built in response to cholera epidemics. It had its first burial in 1848 and its first division was filled by 1867. It now holds over 3 million burials, more than any other cemetery in the United States.