Sailors' Snug Harbor Cemetery
Sailors' Snug Harbor was established on Staten Island in 1831 as a retirement home for sailors. Noted sea captain Robert Richard Randall—in a will drafted by Alexander Hamilton—bequeathed his property for the creation of Snug Harbor, one of the first retirement homes in the country. The only requirement for the self-sustaining community was that residents have five years of maritime service for the US, or ten years for a foreign country.
Peak population of the community was more than 1,000 in the early 1900s. By the '70s the population had dwindled significantly—the home was moved to North Carolina and the property was transferred to the City of New York as a cultural center. I have been to Snug Harbor a few times in the past few years, but on my most recent visit I finally found the cemetery.
The cemetery appears on Google Maps, but on my last visits it had eluded me. The L-shaped graveyard is located beyond the south gate of Snug Harbor, off of Prospect Avenue, right next to Allison Pond Park. The cemetery itself is enclosed by a brick wall, and when you peek through the (locked) gate it just looks like a big open field. In fact, the six-acre site actually contains the graves of 7,000 mariners who died at the Snug Harbor between 1833 and 1975.
Each grave was once marked with gravestones bearing four-digit numbers, and then metal plates were used when the cemetery began to get crowded. These plates eventually deteriorated and other marble stones were removed and put in storage for their protection. You can see examples of the four-digit marker stones on display in the Noble Maritime Collection (housed on the grounds of Snug Harbor).
What I didn't know when I first tried to find the cemetery is that there are a handful of tombstones left on the property—they're in the back of the cemetery, in an area that the Snug Harbor residents referred to as "Monkey Hill." I'm not sure if this cemetery is ever "open" to the public, but I walked back into the woods of Allison Pond Park and easily found a way over the brick wall. The grass and weeds were nearly knee-high and I was skeptical that I would even be able to find the remaining stones, but I eventually located a few (and emerged with neither ticks, nor a poison ivy rash).
The Trustees' of Sailors' Snug Harbor retained ownership of the cemetery even after the retirement home was relocated, and as I was getting ready to hop back over the wall, I did see a man at the front gate beginning to mow the lawn. I hesitate to say that this cemetery is truly "abandoned" but it may as well have been for how hard it was to locate and how forgotten it feels.