10. Spanish Portugese Cemeteries

Spanish Portugese Cemetery

Congregation Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel), informally known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in 1654. It was the first Jewish congregation to be established in North America. The synagogue was first located in rented quarters in Mill Street and its first cemetery was possibly located in a corner of the African Burial ground, though no one is completely certain where it was located. In 1682, the synagogue purchased land at Chatman Square. Over the years, segments of the graveyard were taken by adjacent developments. For example, in 1855, 256 graves had to be moved to make room for the expansion of the Bowery.

In 1823, Eleventh Street became the Synagogue’s next cemetery location. By 1830, the grid reached Eleventh Street and the cemetery fell victim to the surrounding development. The Synagogue moved its cemetery to Twenty First Street just west of Sixth Avenue, in 1829.  In 1851, the New York City prohibited burial in Manhattan below 86th Street and the Synagogue’s cemetery emigrated to Queens. Today, remnants of three of the cemeteries can still be seen.