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

Second_Cemetery_Spanish_Portuguese_SynagogueLast night before going to see Sleep No More, my friend Chaz and I met up at this hidden gem of a cemetery to document and take some photos for my article. That’s what I call “Killing two birds with one (tomb)stone.” (::uproarious laughter::….But really though.) Chaz took these photos for me while I ogled the beauty of what we found.

Earlier I wrote an article covering The Third Cemetery of the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel. Long name for a tiny cemetery, but this is an even tinier cemetery with an even longer name as far as letter count is concerned.

“The Second Cemetery of the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel” is located on 76 West 11th Street. New York, NY 10011. At least what is LEFT of The Second. Originally it was a rectangle, branching off through what is now 11th st. But in 1830, the city took control of the cemetery through eminent domain, and the bodies which were “in the way” were disinterred and taken to the The Third. (Only 8 graves in The Second are accounted for on, but there are obviously more present. Most being the tiny crumbling headstones of children’s graves.)

The Second was opened in 1805 and was in active use to 1829. (Rather short lifespan in comparison to some cemeteries that I have covered. But then again, The Third and The Second are the only “closed” cemeteries I’ve covered thus far. I find them to be extra-fascinating. They are quite literally a chance to peer through the bars at a piece of nearly untouched American history.)

Only one of the graves has been restored over the more than 200 years the cemetery has been around. Ehpraim Hart, a Revolutionary War veteran, is now donning a new gravestone and a vibrant little American flag. A stark contrast among the decay and age of the surrounding graves.

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I noticed that the paint that was chipping on the street facing wall, had been re-painted at least 5 times. The chipping layers gave way to several other colors on the wall. At that moment Chaz said “You’re like a real life Lydia Deetz.” Best compliment ever. 🙂

Lastly, fun fact: the red brick wall, as seen here:

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…is said to be the partial remaining location of a Civil War tavern called “The Grapevine,” where Civil War soldiers would be able to eavesdrop on each other during the time of war to discover the latest developments and news. Otherwise known as “hearing it through the grapevine.” Yes, it is THE Grapevine.

I am very excited to visit “The First” after discovering so much about the last two. The next one promises to be…groundbreaking. (Ok…I’ll stop with the cemetery puns…)

grapevine wall edit

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