Trinity Church Cemetery


Trinity Church Cemetery, 1843-1982

39 boxes, 19.5 linear feet plus oversize

Historical Note:

Trinity Church began searching for more burial space far from the ever-growing city by 1838. New York City had forbidden burial South of Canal Street fifteen years earlier and Trinity’s only useable burial ground, St. John’s, located about ten blocks North of Canal, was already filling up to capacity. In 1842, Trinity, after having reviewed several options, including space in the new Greenwood Cemetery, decided to accept an offer from Richard F. Carman for 24 acres in upper Manhattan. The property is today bounded on the East by Amsterdam Avenue, on the South by 153rd St., on the West by Riverside Driveoverlooking the Hudson River, and on the North by 155th Street. James Renwick Jr., best known as the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was chosen to lay out the grounds. The first interment took place in May 1843. 

Trinity Church had intended to construct a chapel at the cemetery from the beginning but none was built until the 1910s. Funerals were initially performed in the chapel at St. John’s Burial Ground, a considerable distance from the cemetery. By 1848, Trinity began making payments to the Church of the Intercession, founded in 1847 on 154th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, in order to use the nearer Church for funerals.

In 1867, the City decided to open 11th Avenue through the Cemetery splitting it into an easterly and westerly division. The Vestry, in 1870, commissioned Calvert Vaux to build a bridge to connect the two halves of the cemetery. Calvert Vaux’s services were retained until 1880 and, in addition to the bridge, he designed the landscaping and the wall enclosing the cemetery.

By 1907, the Church of the Intercession agreed to become a chapel of Trinity Church. The rector Milo Gates needed a bigger church for his growing congregation and Trinity Church had always wanted its own chapel for its burial ground. In 1910, Trinity commenced the building of a larger Intercession on the Easterly side of the Cemetery grounds. The pedestrian bridge was dismantled in 1911 to make way for the new complex. The Chapel of the Intercession, designed by Bertram Goodhue, situated on the corner of 155th Street and Broadway, was consecrated in 1915. The Chapel was made independent of Trinity Church in 1976 and became known once again as the Church of the Intercession.

In 1978, Trinity put in mausoleum facilities in order to continue providing burial space in Manhattan. A crematory was added in 1980 but closed in 1991 after the City cited it for non-compliance to Environmental Protection Agency standards. The crematory, while successful and heavily used, had annoyed the neighboring residents which ran counter to the Church’s intentions of extending its ministry through burial services.

Trinity Church Cemetery is the final resting place of several well-known New Yorkers including: members of the Astor family; former Mayor Fernando Wood; New York Governor John Adams Dix; mistress of the Morris-Jumel Mansion Eliza B. Jumel; author of the “Night Before Christmas” Clement Clarke Moore; and author Ralph Ellison. In 1893, the Academy of Sciences erected a monument over the grave of the naturalist artist John James Audubon who had lived on an estate bordering the land the Cemetery occupies.

Scope and Content Note: 

The records contain burial registers and plot information. The administrative records of the Managing Director of the Cemetery/Mausoleum Department include files dating from 1933 to 1982 on forms, regulations, plants and grounds, plots for the indigent, and the columbarium. See also Finance—Property Management, Property Management, and Congregational Office--Chapels