Southside Burial Ground

A view of Southside Burial Ground, Nov 1927 (QBPL)

In a 1934 article in the Leader-Observer, a longtime resident of Ozone Park described the area’s old community burying ground, remnants of which still exist at present-day Redding Street, Albert Road, and 149th Avenue in Queens:

In a little-known and seldom-visited corner of Ozone Park is one of the oldest burying grounds in New York . . . 15 years ago I often walked out there with my son, who was then a youngster, and we would wander about, reading the inscriptions on the stones and listening to the music of the birds that made the place their home.  In those days there were only a very few houses near it . . . The plot even then had long been neglected, but without the usual sad results of neglect.  Without man to spoil, nature ran riot . . . in the summer time the whole place was a glorious profusion of violets, lilies of the valley, tiger lilies, and even roses.  To this little paradise had repaired the birds that had gradually been chased out of the more settled sections, so that in a few minutes the casual visitor would see ten or a dozen different varieties of brilliant multi-colored songsters . . . Taken all in all, it seemed to me then the most fitting resting place for those pioneers of old I had yet seen . . . The names on these ancient . . . stones were almost all Dutch, names that today are well known.  Vanderveers lay there, and Van Wycks along with many others who gave meaning to the wilderness that once was this part of the country.

Today all is changed.  I walked out there a few days ago, for the first time in about 10 years, and I was shocked.  Since that time the Crossbay boulevard has been laid; a big cash-and-carry supermarket stands nearby; a development company has hedged in the little burying ground with raucously new brick houses.  Where the birds used to sing by the old pipe line, autos now roar by in an unending stream on the Sunrise highway. But what shocked me most was the condition of the cemetery itself.  The birds are gone, and the flowers.  The shrubbery that once gave the moss-covered stones a decent privacy are now but a bedraggled collection of broken weeds.  Even the stones are gone.  Where they went I do not know . . . Of the several hundred monuments that were standing ten years ago, not more than a dozen remain . . .

The Southside Burial Ground in 1849, situated near the junction of the Old South Road and the Road to Jamaica Bay
The Southside Burial Ground in 1919 (Queens Topographical Bureau).

This community cemetery was set aside as a burying ground about 1680 and was situated at the junction of two colonial highways—the Old South Road that crossed southern Queens from east to west, and the Road to Jamaica Bay, which later became Woodhaven Boulevard. Each neighboring family, among them the Ryders, Van Wicklens, Durlands, and Stoothoffs, was allotted a share in the burial ground at the time it was established. Known today as the Southside Burial Ground, the old graveyard has been referred to by a number of names over the years, including the Van Wicklen Cemetery, Aqueduct Cemetery, and Homestead Cemetery. The half-acre burial ground was used and remained intact until the housing boom and street construction that began in the 1920s destroyed much of it.  About half of the cemetery was lost when 149th Avenue was extended through the southern portion of the site, and most of the monuments had disappeared by the 1930s.

In December 1935, Long Island Daily Press reporter Sarah Wilford called the Southside cemetery the “most desolate in Queens,” after workmen chopped down most of the trees at the site and burned it over to clear it of vegetation.  What remained of the cemetery gradually became a dumping ground.  Concerned citizens of the area fought for decades to protect and preserve the burial ground, and today the NYC Parks department manages the site.  Four gravestones still exist in the northern section of the old graveyard, which remains on the east side of Redding Street, between Albert Road and 149th Avenue.  A remnant of the southern portion of the cemetery also exists in the park on the other side of 149th Avenue; although no stones are present in this section, it is distinguished by a chain-link fence that separates it from the adjacent ball field.

The “desolate” Southside Burial Ground in Jan 1936, after it was burned to clear it of vegetation (QBPL)
The Southside Burial Ground today (NYCityMap)
Tombstones in the northern section of the Southside Burial Ground. (Mary French)
Remnant of the southern portion of the Southside Burial Ground, adjacent to Vito Locascio Field (formerly Loring Field). (Mary French)

Sources: Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens (Powell & Meigs 1932), 54-57; Sidney’sMap of Twelve Miles around New-York, 1849; The Story of Woodhaven and Ozone Park (Seyfried 1985), 119; “Ozone Park Burial Ground Has Rich History,” Leader-Observer, Jan 4, 1996; “LIer Fights to Get Cemetery Removed from City Tax Rolls,” LI Press, July 2, 1972; “Historic Tombstones Found,” The Forum, Nov. 23, 1985; “South Side Cemetery Most Desolate in Queens,” LI Daily Press, Dec 12, 1935; “Crossbay Blvd Wipes Out Old Burying Ground,” Leader-Observer, Nov. 22, 1934; NYCityMap.

11 thoughts on “Southside Burial Ground”

  1. South Side Butial Ground in Ozone Park Queens, NY. My Great Grandparndents Georgieana and Charles H. Smith ,there Babys and an adult son Jim are buried at this Burial Ground along with Charles H. Smiths Parents and other long lost members of the Smith Family, all are buried below a road that cut through the Cemetury back in the 1920’s. It would be interesting if some day an Arceoligest would do a dig there. I am sure many of the missing headstones would be found of these original Long Island Familys that were the foundation to this area of Queens NY.

  2. I grew up on Albert Road and spent my childhood playing in that cemetery and climbing the trees. It was like a jungle back then. We referred to it as “the Lot”. My friends who also lived on Albert Rd and I even dug up one of the tombstones. The side of Albert Rd closest to 149th Ave are all built on the burial ground and I remember a lot of my neighbors saying they used to see ghosts. My old neighbors Sy and Goldie (RIP) lived in the house right next to the burial ground, and once they were doing some work in their little yard and dug up the concrete and found a tombstone for a nurse who was about 20 when she died. Being Jewish, they weren’t sure of what the proper thing to do with a Christian tombstone. Another neighbor told them to rebury it. Ha! I was about 15 or 16 before the city stepped in and basically leveled it, and then finally fenced it off. That didn’t stop us as teenagers from still hanging out in there and sneaking cigarettes and beer. Same goes for the remaining section at the ball field (Loring Park, a.k.a. “the Field, or Crossbay Field”). I don’t know how I came across this article, but to see Albert Road and Redding St brought me way back!

  3. My Uncle Frank Errico and Aunt Joan lived on Albert Rd. with their 4 children. I would visit often with my family, my cousin Jimmy (RIP) and I used to play in that lot. We saw many large rectangular stones lying on their side, we used to joke that it was an Indian burial site. Many memories of growing up in the 1960’s happened right there.

    1. I lived 2 doors down from your Aunt and Uncle. They were such nice people. Last I heard your cousin Joanie and Roy moved to Rhode Island, I think?

  4. I remember this little cemetery when I lived on Desarc Rd. growing up in the 60`s and 70`s. I always respected the grounds and was always intrigued by the fact that it has been there for so many years . I was back in OZ a couple of years back and I stopped there with my mother to reminisce and I could not believe my eyes . When I saw the fence around the few stones that are still standing, brown grass and trash , put tears in my eyes .. I am glad that there are still people today that have respect for the dead .

  5. I would like to contact someone who could tell me all the names of the people who were buried there. There should be a plaque.
    The parks Dept. should have a sign there and plant some flowers. I plan to take two classes of students from the school on the next block to see it.

    1. Beth, The Queens Topographical Bureau surveyed the cemetery in 1919 and recorded the names that were on the 79 gravemarkers they found at that time. Those names are published in Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens (Powell & Meigs 1932, p. 54-57), and there is a link to an online version of that publication above in the Sources section of the post.

      You would need to contact the NYC Parks Dept for access to the cemetery.

  6. Comment from Beth Magazzo, Sept 20, 2017

    Just wanted to let you know that the Parks
    Dept. called me to let me know that tomorrow a sign would be placed at the South Side Burial Ground across from the Vito Locassio Park in Ozone Park.

    Beth Magazzo

  7. Mary
    I was able to get the Parks Dept to place a marker at this location in
    Oct 20019 The marker .is very small 8×14 inches I would like a cast iron
    Historical marker posted and a marker placed in the Loring Park across
    where the bodies that were reburied when 149 ave cut through the burial ground. This burial ground should be remembered not as a Indian burial ground, How better to honor their resting place with a historical marker, new fence, flowers. this is the only place in southwest Queens to visit an existing piece of the 17th century.
    Dan Grieve

    1. I would like to up date this cemetery I am working with the Department
      of Parks to have the four tombstone’s that are laying on the ground reset on their base. If anyone is interest please contact me at Dan Grieve

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s