Centuries-old cemetery may lie beneath 12th Street

According to this 1867 map, the cemetery was directly under where the church currently stands. Credit: New York Public Library.
According to this 1867 map, the cemetery was directly under where the church currently stands. Credit: New York Public Library

Preservationists fighting to protect a historic East Village church happened upon a surprising discovery recently: The 100-year-old Mary Help of Christians church was built on top of an even older Catholic cemetery — once the largest Catholic cemetery in the city.

The discovery was made the day before community groups were organizing a rally in the hopes of getting developer David Steiner to agree to develop only the large vacant lot next to the church, and to reuse the church structure rather than tear it down.

Steiner has apparently acquired permits to demolish the century-old church, its 150-year-old rectory, and a 90-year-old school connected to it, according to Andrew Berman with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

“It doesn’t mean they have to use them,” Berman added. “But they do have them.”

Berman said another reason to use the vacant lot for development is that it is the only part of the Steiner-owned land that was not built on top of the cemetery. 

It is unclear whether there are still bodies below this stretch of East 12th Street: Berman said an exhumation was conducted in 1909 when bodies were supposed to be moved from this site to Calvary Cemetery in Queens, but “there is reasonable doubt” as to whether all of the bodies were successfully relocated.

“The number of bodies that were reported in the press as having been moved is significantly lower than the number of bodies that several reliable press accounts from the era said were buried there,” Berman said. “Typically with cemeteries like this when they are closed down and ‘moved,’ oftentimes the movement is far from complete and it’s common to find human remains were left behind.”

“We believe that it’s a possibility and one that should be explored before any excavation takes place,” Berman added.

The church, for decades a nexus in the East Village’s Italian community, was made famous by Allen Ginsberg, who lived across the way at 437 E. 12th St. and referenced the building’s copper roof and cross in the poem “Fourth Floor, Dawn, Up All Night Writing Letters.”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.