Three million people have been buried in New York City’s Calvary Cemetery since its establishment in 1848. Spanning 365 acres across Maspeth and Woodside, the visually famous site contains the largest number burials of any cemetery in the United States. New York City’s famous skyline, jaggedly rising and falling in the background, eerily parallels the lines formed by the endless rows of headstones decorating the grounds. Both elements are crowded, but organized – and perhaps those qualities are what make the Calvary Cemetery so intrinsic to city it was founded upon – and so picturesque for the countless movie and television series that have been filmed there. No wonder it never fails to pique our interest.
In 1863, the City of New York purchased the land from the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and granted Parks jurisdiction over it. The Calvary Veterans Park, as the site was called, was used as a burial ground for Union soldiers who passed away inside New York hospitals after fighting in the Civil War. It is one of many public parks that serve as a burial ground (Pelham Bay Park, Prospect Park, Van Cortlandt Park, etc.), although the only New York City park completely surrounded by a cemetery.
Twenty-one Roman Catholic Civil War Union soldiers are interred there with the last burial taking place in 1909. The soldiers were buried free of charge thanks to the church, which offered to cover the costs for those who could not afford the burials.
Today, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation is responsible for the maintenance of the statuary and the Civil War Memorial, erected in 1866, which features bronze sculptures by Daniel Draddy.