Category: Restoration

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What we’re reading: Historic Cemetery Preservation in Austin

What is the role of a cemetery in an urban environment? What does the cemetery say about who we are as a people?” Asked, and answered, in Curbed.

Black and white photo of Second Ave. Marble Cemetery,  New York City, 1893.
Second Ave. Marble Cemetery, New York City, 1893.
Row of headstones and footstones against the old (East) back wall.

A Few Photographs of the Second Cemetery

During our site visit, team member Taylor Dietrich documented many of the grave markers. The inscriptions below are taken from a report provided to Shearith Israel by Jablonski Building Conservation, which performed a detailed assessment of the cemetery’s physical condition in the summer of 2015, and includes some information transcribed from the congregation’s burial register by Rachel Frankel.

The Grave of ABRAHAM JUDAH Son of BERNARD & CATHERINE JUDAH died Feb. 26, 1825; aged 14 years 11 months and 7 days.
The Grave of
Abraham Judah
Son of
Bernard S. & Catherine Judah
died Feb. 26, 1825;
aged 14 years 11 months
and 7 days.

 

In memory of Bernard S. Judah Born June 1776 Died May 1831
In memory of Bernard S. Judah
Born June 1776
Died May 1831
Headstone of Isaac Harby
Sacred to the Memory of Isaac Harby
A Native of Charleston
He Died In The City
on [December 12, 1822]
Aged — years
[Probable] headstone of Hannah Jacobs widow of B. Jacobs. Died August 20, 1825. Heavily weathered Hebrew and English inscription
[Probable] headstone of Hannah Jacobs
widow of B. Jacobs. Died August 20, 1825.
Headstone of Benjamin Jacobs, died 1/31/1824. A steel support frame has been placed around this fragile headstone. Weathered Hebrew and English inscription
… Memory
of Benjamin Jacobs,
who departed this life
on Saturday
the 31 of January 1824
Age__ years
A steel support frame has been placed around this fragile headstone.

 

Headstone of Rachel S
Rachel____S
who departed this life
on the 5th day of August
1822
Aged 49 Years

Field Trip

Today our project team met onsite with Zach Edinger—the sexton of Shearith Israel—and one of his associates. He graciously answered questions about the historical information he had provided us (a large set of documents and reports) and gave us a tour of both the 11th St. and 21st St. cemeteries, relating stories about some of the more well-known occupants, offering additional background information, and updating us on both cemeteries’ restoration.  He has already made connections for us to a team of conservators who surveyed the 11th Street site last summer, and we will be contacting them shortly.

We also learned that many records and old documents are archived in Newark, NJ and that he will make these available to us for further research.

handwritten cemetery ledger, early 19th Century
Burial Record of Congregation Shearith Israel. Photo by Rachel Frankel.

At one time a database existed, which had also possibly served as the back-end of a simple online interactive map. Unfortunately, the website is no longer active and it seems that neither the creators nor the host backed up the information. Nevertheless, this points to the likely existence of more detailed records about cemetery occupants and memorials. It also serves as an important object lesson in backing up data!

Unless the original database records are found, our next step will be to reconstruct the database, beginning with a basic table of information we currently have in hand: names, some vital statistics, and some biographical information. We will also be looking for these individuals in the late 18th- and early 19th-century city directories and property maps held by the New York Historical Society, to determine any home and/or business addresses. Finally, we will connect, where possible, family and individual names with those in three published collections of primary source documents, to supplement the biographical data we have.