Tag Archives: Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge Methodist Church Cemetery

Removal of human remains at Bay Ridge United Methodist Church Cemetery in April 2008 (Left in Bay Ridge)

When Bay Ridge United Methodist Church decided to sell their church and grounds at Fourth and Ovington Avenues and remove human remains buried in their churchyard in 2008, their actions were met with shock and outrage from local community activists who accused the congregation of greed, disregard for the historic importance of their building, and disgracing the dead. Church leaders maintained that the diminished congregation did not have the resources to repair and restore the crumbling, 109-year-old building—nicknamed the “Green Church” for the color of its stone exterior—and that their Christian mission was community service, not historic preservation. They sold the property to a developer for $9.75 million and the church was demolished in October 2008.

This section of an 1890 map of Bay Ridge shows the original Methodist cemetery site at 6th Ave & 67th St (where the first Bay Ridge Methodist church was built in 1831) and the church at Fourth & Ovington Aves (where the remains were moved in 1901)

Before the demolition of the building, the church disinterred the remains of 211 early members of the congregation from a large underground vault in the churchyard and reburied them at Cypress Hills Cemetery. It was the second time these human remains were moved from their resting places. Bay Ridge United Methodist Church descends from the earliest Methodist congregation in Bay Ridge, who built their first church on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 67th Street in 1831 and had a graveyard adjacent to the church. After a fire destroyed this church in 1848, the congregation built a new church at another site but continued to use the Methodist cemetery at Sixth Avenue and 67th Street for burials. In 1878, the congregation again built a new church, their third, at the corner of Fourth and Ovington Avenues, and called it Grace Methodist Episcopal Church; this wooden structure was replaced in 1899 with the “Green Church” building. 

Detail of the Methodist cemetery site at 6th Ave & 67th St

The remains from the Methodist cemetery at Sixth Avenue and 67th Street were relocated to the churchyard at Fourth and Ovington Avenues in 1901 when the city seized the cemetery property for the extension of Sixth Avenue. The original cemetery site was the burial place for many old settlers of Bay Ridge, including members of the Van Pelt, Benham, De Nyse, Bogart, De Groff, and Stillwell families. A reporter who visited the cemetery in 1899 found about 30 tombstones still standing and examined church records that listed the interment of about 200 bodies, beginning with Susan Bayard, “a beautiful girl who died in 1832.”  To receive the remains removed from the cemetery in 1901, Grace Methodist Episcopal Church built a vault in the churchyard about 20 feet south of the church building, facing Fourth Avenue. Constructed of bluestone and Milwaukee brick, it was sunk 11 feet below the ground and was 15 x 18 feet in size. A large granite monument marked the reburial site.

In the 1930s, the former Bay Ridge Methodist cemetery site at Sixth Avenue and 67th Street became part of Leif Ericson Park. By the 1970s, the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church congregation was renamed Bay Ridge United Methodist Church and few remembered that an old cemetery was reburied under the monument in their churchyard.

A 1931 photo of the monument that marked the site in the churchyard at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church (later Bay Ridge United Methodist Church) where the remains from the Methodist cemetery were reinterred in 1901 (BPL)

The developer who bought the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church property in 2008 had intended to erect a luxury condo complex on the site, but the bottom fell out of the housing market before the sale was completed and he eventually sold the bulk of the property to the city to build a public school. The site of the churchyard vault that once held the relocated remains of Bay Ridge’s early Methodists is now beneath P.S./I.S. 30 Mary White Ovington School. Bay Ridge United Methodist Church now meets in a rented room at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Fourth Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway. They use the money from the sale of their property as they say Jesus has called them to do—to help the needy and to care for one another.

This 2004 aerial view shows Bay Ridge United Methodist Church complex before it was sold and developed; arrow denotes approximate location of reburial vault (NYCityMap)
2012 aerial view, arrows denote approximate location of the original Methodist cemetery site in Leif Ericson Park and the reburial vault site, now underneath P.S./I.S. 30 (NYCThen&Now)

Sources: Robinson’s 1890 Atlas of Kings Co., Pl 7; Reminiscences of Old New Utrecht and Gowanus (Bangs 1912); “A New Church,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 13, 1875; “A Donnybrook at Bay Ridge,”; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1888; “Village of Graef Tract,” New York Evening Post, Oct 21, 1899; “Emptying the Old Cemetery,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jun 21, 1901; “Removing a Cemetery,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul 10, 1901; “Bay Ridge Church Changes Its Spots,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 18, 1931; “The Little Church That Couldn’t,” New York Times, Apr 1, 2007; “The Dead Speak at Ridge’s Doomed ‘Green Church,’”Brooklyn Paper, May 19, 2007; “Devil’s Work,” Left in Bay Ridge, Apr 24, 2008; “Grave Insult,” New York Post, Apr 25 2008; “Reverend Bob,” Radio Free Bay Ridge, Jun 18, 2021

Barkeloo Cemetery

A view of the Barkeloo Cemetery in 1922 (Standard Union)

In the early 1800s  at least a dozen small burial grounds speckled the landscape of farms and estates across the six historical townships that came to form the modern borough of Brooklyn. These graveyards were set aside on homesteads of families that settled the area during the Dutch colonial period and later, and their owners tried to preserve them for descendants with covenants in wills and deeds that exempted them from property transfers. But as urban development encroached over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and estates were broken up and sold off, most of these families—once prominent in local events and public life—disappeared from the area, as did their ancestral burial grounds. Today only one of these homestead burial grounds survives in Brooklyn—the tiny Barkeloo Cemetery in Bay Ridge.

This detail from an 1811 map shows historic New Utrecht and Yellow Hook, where the Barkeloo homestead was located.

The Barkeloo family home stood on the Shore Road overlooking the Narrows and New York Bay, in the Yellow Hook section of the historic Town of New Utrecht. To the rear of the residence was the family burial plot, situated at what is now the corner of Narrows Avenue and MacKay Place. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Jaques Barkeloo (1747-1813) occupied the farm with his first wife Catharine Suydam (1753-1788), his second wife Maria Bogert (1768-1841), and offspring from both marriages. Jaques Barkeloo was a prominent figure in New Utrecht, serving as Town Supervisor for several years.

In 1794, Jaques Barkeloo recruited the first English-speaking teacher for New Utrecht’s village school; this advertisement for the position appeared in a 1793 newspaper.
Jaques Barkeloo’s obituary, April 14, 1813

In 1834, the old Barkeloo homestead transferred out of the family when Jaques’ widow Maria sold the property. The graveyard was excluded from the deed and the family continued to make burials there until 1848. For many years thereafter, the burial ground was reportedly well cared for, surrounded by a high picket fence that was regularly given a fresh coat of white paint, and the branches of the family contributed annually to a fund for upkeep of the site. But by the end of the 19th century few Barkeloo descendants remained in Bay Ridge and their ancestral burial ground was neglected. In July 1897, the New York World reported that the spot was “unkept,” “surrounded by a dilapidated wooden fence,” and threatened by road construction. Though the site may have contained more than 30 graves, only three tombstones were standing at that time—those of Jaques Barkeloo, his first wife Catharine, and his widow Maria.

The Barkeloo Cemetery is delineated on this 1890 map

The Barkeloo family cemetery continued in a state of disrepair until 1923, when a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution rehabilitated the site, clearing it of rubbish, covering it with new soil, and surrounded it with a hedge. By this time, Jaques Barkeloo’s tombstone had disappeared, but his wives’ tombstones remained, and another—that of Margetta Barkeloo Wardell (1798-1834)—was found buried four and a half feet under dirt during the landscaping work. As part of their efforts to revitalize the site, the DAR touted it as a Revolutionary War cemetery by installing a monument in honor of Harmanus Barkeloo (1745-1788), who in March 1776 was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the New Utrecht Company of the Kings County Militia. Harmanus survived the war but was felled by smallpox when traveling in New Jersey in 1788; sources disagree as to whether he is interred in the Barkeloo Cemetery or at the Old Parsonage Burying Ground in Somerville, New Jersey.

The DAR also installed a monument for Simon Cortelyou (1746-1828), who married Jaques Barkeloo’s widow, Maria, and is believed to be buried next to her in the Barkeloo cemetery. Cortelyou was “one of the many Tories who infested Long Island,” as one local history puts it; a well-known British loyalist, Cortelyou was imprisoned and fined for mistreatment of American prisoners during the Revolution. Given Cortelyou’s history, it’s curious that the DAR chose to memorialize him; however, when dedicating the rehabilitated cemetery, they claimed they had found records (possibly these) showing that Cortelyou gave “vast sums of money for Washington’s army” and that he had been in constant communication with Governor George Clinton during the war. Whatever the case may be regarding Cortelyou’s loyalties during the Revolution, he was a leading community figure in New Utrecht during the early Republic era and seems to have been forgiven any anti-patriotic sins of his past. His obituary, which ran in the New York Spectator on August 15, 1828, reads simply: “Died—On Friday night at the Narrows, L.I., Simon Cortelyou, Esq., an old and respectable inhabitant of that place.”

Since it’s rehabilitation by the DAR in 1923, patriotic groups have frequently held ceremonies at the Barkeloo Cemetery. This July 1926 photo shows members of a local chapter of the VFW preparing to fire volleys over monuments in the cemetery in observance of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (Times Union).

Now tucked behind Xaverian High School, which has occupied the former Barkeloo homestead since the 1950s, the Barkeloo Cemetery links the past of old New Utrecht and the American Revolution with the present Bay Ridge and the modern city that has been built around it. It endures through the efforts of various civic groups and neighborhood caretakers, who’ve protected the site with a wrought-iron fence and keep the grounds nicely maintained with pretty flowers and trimmed shrubbery. A large granite marker installed at the site in 1984 by the Trust of Emma J. Barkuloo and Bay Ridge Historical Society lists 21 people thought to be interred here.

The Barkeloo Cemetery in May 2016 (Mary French)
The Barkeloo Cemetery in May 2016 (Mary French)
A 2012 aerial view of Barkeloo Cemetery and its environs (NYCityMap)

Sources: Eddy’s 1811 Map of the Country Thirty Miles Round the City of New York; Robinson’s 1890 Atlas of Kings Co. Pl 8; The Bergen Family or the Descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen (Bergen 1876), 375; History of Kings Co. (Stiles 1884), 263-266; Reminiscences of Old New Utrecht and Gowanus (Bangs 1912); Cemeteries in Kings and Queens Counties (Eardeley 1916), 1:47-48; Twenty-third Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, 1918, 285-286; “Wanted,” The Diary, May 22, 1793; “Died,” Long Island Star, Apr 14, 1813; “Sheriff’s Sale,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan 13, 1880; “An Old Cemetery to Go,” New York World, Jan 7, 1897; “Ancient Gravestones in Old Bay Ridge,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Jul 6, 1919; “Historic Old Burying Ground,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov 21, 1922; “DAR Will Restore Old Burial Plot,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Feb 4, 1923; “Honor Memory of Revolution Heroes Buried in Bay Ridge,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 4, 1923; “Rescuing Brooklyn’s Tiniest Graveyard,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 16, 1923; “Two Revolutionary War Heroes Made V.F.W. Members,” Brooklyn Times Union, Jul 23, 1926; “Shaft to Be Dedicated at Barkeloo Cemetery,” New York Daily News, May 1, 1935; “New Fence for Barkaloo Cemetery,” Home Reporter & Sunset News, Feb 8, 1980; “Cemetery Revamp,” Brooklyn Graphic, Mar 16, 2010; “How an Ancient Cemetery Survived in Bay Ridge,Hey Ridge, Jun 4, 2018; The Smallest Cemetery in Brooklyn Has a Story, Brooklyn Ink, Oct 24, 2019