Thursday, May 8, 2008

Second Cemetery

I frequently walk by this cemetery, a tiny, walled, triangular plot located on 11th Street just east of 6th Avenue. Tucked against 19th century townhouses and shaded by trees, it always seems a quiet repose disconnected from the nearby traffic. I've never seen the gate unlocked but someone obviously tends it regularly. Most of the stones are heavily weathered, so the particulars of the cemetery's residents are difficult to discern.

Founded in 1654 by a small group of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Congregation Shearith Israel is the oldest Jewish congregation in the U.S. and was the only synagogue in New York City until 1825. Over the last 350 years the congregation has moved several times, settling at its current location on West 70th St. in 1897. The congregation's "First Cemetery" (1682-1828), located in Chinatown at St. James Place opposite Chatham Square, is on the National Register. The "Second Cemetery," pictured here, was originally much larger and square. In 1830, 11th Street was cut through the neighborhood, leaving the cemetery in its present triangular configuration, with only twenty stones remaining. The "Third Cemetery," on 21st St. between 6th and 7th Avenues, was used from 1829 until 1851.

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1 comment:

Isabel said...

ooooo Brian...if all your latest blog entries have made me want to grab my camera and explore the city, now this one about Portuguese Jews REALLY made my day. Packing my camera as I type...;-) THANKS!