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Cypress Hills Cemetery (New York City)

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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 occupies 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).



Dedicated on November 21st, 1848[1] east of the Ridgewood Reservoir, Cypress Hills Cemetery was opened for burials in 1851 and was designed to emulate a "rural cemetery" setting. 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[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, 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 in time, 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:

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. 28 July 1874. Accessed online from, 7 Dec 2018.
  3. ^ "Letter from the Secretary of War, Communicating, in Obedience to law, the report of the inspector of the national cemeteries for the years 1870 and 1871," Senate Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Public Documents and Executive Documents: 14th Congress, 1st Session-48th Congress, 2nd Session and Special Session, Volume 2. Accessed online through Google Books, 7 Dec 2018.
  4. ^ "Graves of the Veterans," Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 28 May 1899. Accessed online at, 7 Dec 2018.
  5. ^ "Hart Island Civil War Veterans Graveyard". Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  6. ^ "Moving Wikoff's Dead to Cypress Hills," Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 8 January 1899. Accessed online 7 Dec 2018
  7. ^ "Wagner wants inquiry into cemetery affairs," Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 23 March 1902. Accessed online 7 Dec 2018,
  8. ^ Toy, Vivian S. "A Final Resting Place That Isn't; Crumbling Landfill Encroaches on Cemetery's Tranquillity," The New York Times. 21 Sept 1998. Accessed online 7 Dec 2018.
  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