Calvary Monument

Calvary Veterans Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This park, in a triangle formed by First Calvary, Green Avenue, and Gale Street within Calvary Cemetery, has roots in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan. In 1817, the Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral (now called Old St. Patrick's Cathedral) on Mott Street realized that their original cemetery on Mulberry Street was almost full. They drew up a charter for a burial ground in Queens, and on October 29, 1845, the Trustees bought 71 acres of land from John McMenoy and John McNolte. They named the cemetery after Mount Calvary, where Jesus Christ was crucified, according to the New Testament. The first burial in Calvary Cemetery took place on July 31, 1848. Since then, the Roman Catholic cemetery, which now comprises Old Calvary Cemetery and New Calvary Cemetery, has expanded to 365 acres, and is the largest cemetery in the United States.

On April 28, 1863, the City of New York purchased the land for this park from the Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral and granted Parks jurisdiction over it. The land transaction charter stated that Parks would use the land as a burial ground for soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War (1861-65) and died in New York hospitals. Parks is responsible for the maintenance of the Civil War monument, the statuary, and the surrounding vegetation. Twenty-one Roman Catholic Civil War Union soldiers are buried here. The last burial took place in 1909.

This park is one of many public parks that serve as burial grounds. There are burial sites in Fort Greene Park (the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument) and Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, and in Drake Park, Pelham Bay Park, and Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. Other parks throughout the city were once potter's fields which had no grave markers. Washington Square, Union Square, Madison Square, and James J. Walker Parks in Manhattan and Wayanda Park in Queens were all cemeteries for paupers and drifters.

The monument features bronze sculptures by Daniel Draddy, fabricated by Maurice J. Power, and was dedicated in 1866. Mayor John T. Hoffman (1866-68) and the Board of Aldermen donated it to the City of New York. The 50-foot granite obelisk, which stands on a 40 by 40 foot plot, originally had a cannon at each corner, and a bronze eagle once perched on a granite pedestal at each corner of the plot. The column is surmounted by a bronze figure representing peace. Four life-size figures of Civil War soldiers stand on the pedestals. In 1929, for $13,950, the monument was given a new fence, and its bronze and granite details replaced or restored. The granite column is decorated with bronze garlands and ornamental flags. In 2007, the NYC Parks Citywide Monuments Conservation Program completed a piolet conservation of the one intact bronze figural sculpture—the engineer (axeman). The survey is intended to be used as specifications for a comprehensive restoration in the future.

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