Built and consecrated in 1799, St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery is Manhattan’s oldest site of continuous worship and the second oldest church building. It inspired the naming of nearby St. Mark’s Place and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, however, it might be better known as a community gathering place, thanks to the many plays, dances, poetry readings, avant-garde films and political events that have been taking place on the premises for decades. St. Mark’s Church also has a significant burial ground, housing the vault of Peter Stuyvesant along with other prominent founders of New York City. When visiting the Minthorne House on 1st Street, we learned that several members of the Minthorne family were also buried here.
Not to be confused with New York Marble Cemetery just around the corner, this burial ground features custom gravestones and is the resting place of many prominent New Yorkers. Among them are James Lenox, founder of the New York Public Library, Stephen Allen, both governor and mayor of New York, the Kip family of Kips Bay; and several members of the Roosevelt family, including James Henry Roosevelt, founder of Roosevelt Hospital. Interestingly, we learned that President James Monroe was one of the first to be laid to rest here in 1831, but his body was later moved to Richmond, Virginia. New York City Marble Cemetery was designated as a landmark in the late 1960's. (The office is located at 72 East 1st Street)
Nestled beside high brick residences is Manhattan’s smallest cemetery - easy to overlook, unless one knows it is there. From 1805 to 1830 it served as the graveyard to the oldest synagogue in the country. Congregation Shearith Israel (also known as the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue) was founded in 1654. In 1830, 11th Street was extended and much of the cemetery was left behind. There are approximately thirty graves and a single, moss-grown stone path remaining. Today these 200 year-old plots sit, hidden, stones barely legible.
Certainly it is a tiny cemetery that is easy to walk by, but watch for the wrought iron gates, and peer through them, as it holds a special piece of history. It was opened in 1829 in connection with Congregation Shearith Israel, an Orthodox Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and the oldest Jewish Congregation in the United States. It was founded in 1654 by Spanish and Portuguese Jewish refugees fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe, and until 1825 it was the only Jewish formal place of worship in New York City. The Synagogue now resides on the Upper West Side, and the cemetery has two other counterparts further downtown. The cemetery contains about 250 graves and was active until 1851 when a law was passed forbidding burial anywhere south of 86th Street. It is always fascinating to stumble upon a little relic of the past, tucked away peacefully between the side street businesses.
The dome of this church cannot be missed in the East Village skyline. Built over one hundred years ago, in 1905, St. George has played a vital role in bringing people together in the Ukrainian community. It is just one more example of the magnificent structures - both inside and out - that line these side streets. (Although housed in two separate buildings, the Rectory at No. 30, and the church, on the corner of 7th Street and Taras Shevchenko Place, share the same address. )