I love exploring abandoned or forgotten places, but they’re hard to come by in New York City. Land is such a premium that nothing sits empty for too long and almost nothing about the city feels like a secret. As I was watching the (excellent) documentary, The World Before Your Feet, I was surprised to see Matt Green—who is in the process of walking every single street, park, bridge and cemetery in the five boroughs—walking through what appeared to be an abandoned cemetery. Luckily, it was identified in the film and I made a note in my phone, knowing that I had to see it for myself as soon as I could.
Woodland Cemetery is located just off of Victory Blvd in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Staten Island. It’s only a 20-minute bus ride from the St. George ferry terminal, but inspired by Green, I decided to walk. This turned out to be a mistake because—as I always seem to forget until it’s too late—Staten Island is very hilly. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost all of the hour-long walk to the cemetery was uphill. I did take the bus back to the ferry terminal, but in the future I’ll do the opposite (bus there, walk back).
Woodland was established in 1854 by John King Vanderbilt, first cousin of Cornelius Vanderbilt. John King is buried at Woodland, while Cornelius is buried four miles away in the Vanderbilt Family Cemetery and Mausoleum, a private cemetery located within Moravian Cemetery and not regularly open to the public.
The ten-acre cemetery is still technically active, and there have been more than 22,000 recorded burials. While not considered abandoned, the grounds are definitely overgrown and in desperate need of attention. A group of volunteers is currently working to help preserve the historic cemetery but it’s a big, never-ending job.
Bayside Cemetery is a more notorious abandoned cemetery within city limits but I think Woodland is even better than Bayside. You also get three cemeteries for the price of one—adjacent to Woodland is the similarly shabby Jewish burial ground, Silver Lake Cemetery (1893), and next to Silver Lake is the well-maintained Silver Mount Cemetery (1866).
24-32 Highland Avenue
Staten Island, NY
Join me as I attempt to visit every cemetery located within the five boroughs.