THE DEAD POOL. A ship graveyard adjoins an actual one in Rossville, SI

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One of the eeriest places in the five boroughs, the entire Northeast, or perhaps the entire country, is in the borderland where New York City peters out, leaving New Jersey ahead and the hustle & bustle of the city behind. This is the place where the souls of 17th and 18th century patriots wander in search of someone to clean up their burial ground, and the place where ferries, tugs, barges and skiffs of decades past linger while they wait their turn to sink to Davy Jones’ Locker.

This is Rossville, Staten Island.


This stretch of Arthur Kill Road is lined with auto body shops, roadside taverns, the odd jail or two. But just off to the side of the road, west of the West Shore Expressway, you come upon the odd gravestone, or three or twenty.

The Blazing Star Burial Ground, otherwise known by its more prosaic name, Rossville Cemetery, is on twisting, curving Arthur Kill Road just east of Rossville Avenue.

Rossville, though now bisected by the West Shore Expressway and some truly ugly tract housing, has an important past as a ferry crossing for stagecoach routes between NYC and Philadelphia, the Blazing Star Ferry. Travis, another Staten Island community to the notrtheast, was another such ferry crossing; the New Blazing Star Inn was a way station for weary travelers located at what is now the foot of Victory Boulevard, where the New Blazing Star Ferry was the crossing to New Jersey.

This is the Sleight family cemetery, though many other prominent Staten Island names, like the Seguines and the Deckers, are buried here too.

Tragically, young children often fell victim to illnesses for which there was no vaccine or treatment in the 18th and 19th centuries. Catharine Gertrude, 5, was one such child.

Israel Oakley, interred 1824.

But this is not only a cemetery for people. While you wander among the graves of Blazing Star, which date from 1750 to 1840, take a look out through the trees toward the Arthur Kill, the waterway separating Staten Island from New Jersey.

The Sargasso Sea a reliquary of dead ships? The Bermuda Triangle a place where decrepit vessels go to disappear?

They don’t hold a candle, bowsprit or jibmast to the harbor of Rossville. This is the dead pool.

Between Rossville and Carteret, NJ a fleet of ships sinks slowly below.

A tug lists as it sinks.

Wrecks of all stages of decrepitude are sinking in the Arthur Kill.

Closeup view of the wreckage © Michael Ach.

For dozens of exquisite up-close views of the boat graveyard, see Shaun O’Boyle’s Modern Ruins website. Performance artist Miru Kim has also been here.

Forgotten NY thanks Jeannie Siegel for assistance with this page.

10/29/01





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