First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Cemetery

This detail from an 1873 map of Newtown shows the First Presbyterian Church and Cemetery on the north side of what is now Queens Boulevard. The church property shown on the south side of the street is the site of the congregation’s present church building.

The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown descends from the earliest church established by the English colonists who settled the village of Newtown in 1652. Officially chartered by the Presbytery in 1715, that same year the congregation built a house of worship on the north side of what is now Queens Boulevard and 54th Avenue in Elmhurst, Queens. After the British destroyed that building during Revolutionary War, in 1787 the congregation erected a new edifice that stood on that same site until it was demolished in 1929. The present First Presbyterian Church of Newtown was constructed in 1895 on the south side of Queens Boulevard, directly across the street from the 18th-century church.

A 1927 view of the old First Presbyterian Church of Newtown building (erected in 1787 and demolished in 1929) and the adjacent cemetery (NYPL)

During its early history, members of the Presbyterian Church of Newtown were buried in the village cemetery at the edge of the settlement. But in the 1800s the congregation began to bury their dead in land adjacent to the new church they built after the Revolution. This cemetery was located on the north side of Queens Boulevard, immediately east of the 1787 church. Over 300 people were buried in Newtown’s Presbyterian Church cemetery between 1822 and 1929, including several early members relocated here in 1901 from the old village burial ground. Many well-known Newtown families had plots in the Presbyterian cemetery, including some of the Bragaw, Fish, Furman, Gorsline, Leverich, Luyster, Payntar, Penfold, Remsen, Strang, and Woodhull clans.

A view of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Cemetery in April 1958, just before its removal (Seyfried)

By the mid-20th century, the Presbyterian cemetery—in poor condition and frequently vandalized—was deemed a “white elephant” by church officials, who in 1958 sold the property to Tymon Gardens Realty Corporation for $187,500. After some families privately removed the remains of their relatives to other burial places, in June of 1958 the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown disinterred the rest of the graves in their old cemetery and reburied them in a lot in the Prospect Hill section of Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn. The former site of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Cemetery is now occupied by 86-35 Queens Boulevard, a large apartment building near Elmhurst’s Queens Place Mall (known for its circular design).

A view of the reburial plot of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown at Evergreens Cemetery, Oct 2022 (Chris Bendall)
2018 aerial view showing apartment building now on the former site of the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Cemetery; the present church can be seen directly across the street (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Beers 1873 Atlas of Long Island, Pl 51; Cemetery Inscriptions from Presbyterian Churchyard at Newtown, Long Island, N.Y (Frost 1912); Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens: A Supplement (Queens Topographical Bureau 1975); Elmhurst: From Town Seat to Mega-Suburb (Seyfried 1995); “Old Newtown and Its Confines—The Presbyterian Church Yard, Newtown Village,” Newtown Register, Jun 9, 1887; [Part 2], Newtown Register Jun 16, 1887; “Obituary,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug 6, 1913; “Newtown Elder Indignant at Vandals’Work,” Daily Star (Long Island City, NY), Mar 11, 1933; “Permission Being Sought to Sell 250 Year Old Newtown Cemetery,” Queens Ledger (Maspeth, NY), Apr 3, 1958; “Sale of Ancient Cemetery is OKd,” New York Daily News, Mar 28, 1958; “The Death of a Cemetery,” Long Island Star-Journal, Apr 7, 1958; First Presbyterian Church of Newtown—Cemetery

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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