Third of Three: NYC’s Oldest and Most Hidden Cemeteries

Last week I went to get a haircut, and of course me being me, I found my self in a cemetery instead. Down the street from the salon I was going to go to, I passed a surprise hidden gem. I had heard of the three “Spanish Portvgvese Synagogve” cemeteries that are sort of hidden in various parts of the city. But I had never been to any of them yet. I plan on visiting them in reverse order now that I stumbled, literally, onto the Third Cemetery.

New York City cemetery

(Pardon the crudeness of these images. It was nighttime, and I was using my iPod Touch, in the dark. The ground was smothered in snow as well, making some of the headstones disappear entirely.)

This portion of the three cemeteries was opened in 1829. And despite the Rural Cemetery Act of 1847, prohibiting burials in Manhattan, this location stayed open until 1851.

The first thing you notice is the size of this cemetery. Your bodega is probably bigger than this plot of land. It is rumored that portions of the cemetery may have been developed upon, leaving only this section exposed. Yet out of the three, this one is actually the largest!


The three cemeteries were founded by the first Jewish settlers in North America. This third location is considered the “newest” of the three, being “only” 185 years old. I am very excited to get to the Second Cemetery at some point, which is dated to be 209 years old…and I am FLOORED to discover that the first of the three cemeteries is dated to be a whopping 358 years old! It’s founding date is 1656! According to Wikipedia the 1st of the three is the “only remaining 17th century structure in Manhattan.” So much history!

Portuguese Synagogue

I’ll plan to visit the other two cemeteries during the day, so I can get better photos. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t planning on scheduling in a Cemetery adventure before my visit to the salon. But when I walked past I simply had to take as many pictures of this beautiful relic as possible. (Visiting cemeteries takes priority over visiting the salon. No wonder I’m single.)

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