Open main menu

Main Entrance of Cypress Hills Cemetery
At Mae West's tomb

Cypress Hills Cemetery was the first non-sectarian/non-denominational cemetery corporation organized in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. The Cemetery is run as a non-profit organization and is located at 833 Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn. The Cemetery is located at the Cemetery Belt on the border of both boroughs, and its 225 acres are divided by the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Cypress Hills Cemetery retains its two primary entrances at Jamaica Avenue (Cypress Hills, Brooklyn) and Cooper Avenue (Glendale, Queens). Cemetery of the Evergreens lies directly to the southeast.


19th centuryEdit

Dedicated on November 21, 1848[1] east of the Ridgewood Reservoir, Cypress Hills Cemetery was opened for burials in 1851 and was designed in the rural cemetery style popular at the time. While most burials had previously taken place in or near religious establishments, growing public health concern about burial as a source of disease led to the Rural Cemetery Act and the creation of large rural cemeteries such as Cypress Hills Cemetery within the "Cemetery Belt".[2] The initial Board of Trustees consisted of Abraham H. Van Wyck, Caleb S. Woodwell, C. Edwards Lester, Charles Miller, Luther R. Marsh, Edwin Williams, Christian Delavan.[2]

A portion of the northwest area of the cemetery was designated as the Cypress Hills National Cemetery[3] in 1862 as a military burial ground for soldiers of the American Civil War. A total of 3,425 Union soldiers were buried there, in addition to 478 Confederate soldiers who died while prisoners of war.[4] In 1941 it received the bodies of 235 Confederate prisoners who died on Hart Island.[5]

139 soldiers from the Spanish–American War were re-interred at Cypress Hills Cemetery from Montauk Point in 1899.[6]

20th centuryEdit

In 1902, during the construction of the Interboro Parkway through Cypress Hills, charges were laid of gross mismanagement by Trustees who re-elected themselves each year without oversight, and who received a large income from the sale of burial plots but did not spend any of this on improvements to the cemetery. At this point, 150,000 bodies were buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery. A resolution was passed to create a Senate committee to investigate these matters.[7]

In the late 20th century, a period of mismanagement and controversy led to declaration of bankruptcy. Scandal erupted in 1998 when it was revealed that a section of the cemetery was built on unstable landfill; the cemetery had constructed the Terrace Meadow hill on landfill as a way to increase burial space and appeal to customers who sought burial plots on a hill with a good view. The New York State Supreme Court ruled that the area was unstable and all graves had to be moved.[8]

In 2003, charges were laid by Ravi Batra, one of its former court-appointed guardians, who accused another of trying to seize control by quietly installing one of his own employees as president of the cemetery's re-formed board of directors in a bid to gain control of the 200-acre (0.81 km2) cemetery.[9]

Today, the cemetery serves as the final resting place for over 400,000 individuals. The history of Cypress Hills Cemetery is featured in the book Images of America: Cypress Hills Cemetery by Stephen C. Duer and Allen B. Smith.


The cemetery features:

  • Cypress Hills Abbey, built in 1926[10]
  • Memorial Abbey, built in 1936
  • Melrose Memorial Garden, built in 2008
  • 225 acres of Rural cemetery
  • An urn garden
  • War of 1812 Memorial
  • Civil War Soldiers plot
  • One Commonwealth war grave of Private Fred Wilshear, a World War I soldier of the British Army Labour Corps[11]

Notable intermentsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bell, Jared. The Cemetery of the Cypress Hills, 5th ed. New York: Published from the Rooms of the Cemetery, 1849.
  2. ^ a b "Cypress Hills: History of the Origin of the Cemetery". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. July 26, 1874. p. 2. Retrieved July 26, 2019 – via Brooklyn Public Library;  .
  3. ^ United States. Congress. Senate (1872). Senate Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Public Documents and Executive Documents: 14th Congress, 1st Session-48th Congress, 2nd Session and Special Session. United States congressional serial set. p. 29. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ "Graves of the Veterans". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. May 28, 1899. p. 15. Retrieved July 26, 2019 – via Brooklyn Public Library;  .
  5. ^ "Hart Island Civil War Veterans Graveyard". Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  6. ^ "Cypress Hills: History of the Origin of the Cemetery". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. January 8, 1899. p. 5. Retrieved July 26, 2019 – via Brooklyn Public Library;  .
  7. ^ "Wagner wants inquiry into cemetery affairs". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. March 26, 1902. p. 1. Retrieved July 26, 2019 – via Brooklyn Public Library;  .
  8. ^ Toy, Vivian S. (September 21, 1998). "A Final Resting Place That Isn't; Crumbling Landfill Encroaches on Cemetery's Tranquillity". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Newman, Andy (December 3, 2003). "New Woe for Troubled Cemetery". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2008. After years of mismanagement and controversy, Cypress Hills Cemetery, one of the city's largest, is out of receivership and emerging from bankruptcy. But new charges arose yesterday as one of its former court-appointed guardians accused another of trying to seize control through stealth and self-dealing. In court papers filed yesterday in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, the former receiver, Ravi Batra, claims that the former court-appointed managing agent installed its own employee as president of the cemetery's re-formed board of directors in a bid to gain control of the 200-acre (0.81 km2) cemetery.
  10. ^ Alex Witchel (May 8, 2000). "Blown Sideways, but Landing on Broadway". The New York Times. West is buried in the Cypress Hills Abbey, a mausoleum built in 1926, with her parents and siblings.
  11. ^ CWGC Casualty record.
  12. ^ Cahiers Lithuaniens, November 30, 2005
  13. ^ Moynihan, Colin (May 26, 2014). "A Quest to Recognize Forgotten Achievements Still Relevant in Everyday Life". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2014. Andrew Carroll placed a plaque for Dr. Thomas Holmes next to his burial site at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.
  14. ^ The New York Times

External linksEdit