MOST HOLY TRINITY CEMETERY, Bushwick

By MARIE CARTER

The train rumbles through Williamsburg to Bushwick, before exiting into the bright light of day where Most Holy Trinity Cemetery becomes instantly visible. The cemetery is situated a block away from the Wilson Avenue stop in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. This is old school New York, with neighbors hanging out on their stoops, playing board games, and purchasing coffee for fifty cents from the local bodega. According to the associated church website, this neighborhood is now a mix of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Mexicans and people from other Spanish-speaking countries, as well as new arrivals from Poland. Making a left on Moffat Street to Central Avenue, one has to pass underneath the subway bridge before the entrance to Most Holy Cemetery becomes perceptible.

 

At a superficial glance, Most Holy Trinity Cemetery doesn’t look like anything special, and no one famous is buried here. What makes it unique is that many of the graves are made of metal. The cemetery was established in 1851 by a German Catholic congregation at Most Holy Trinity in Williamsburg. New York Cemetery Project estimates it holds 25,000 graves. The belief among the congregation was that in death, there should be no difference between rich and poor, and therefore many of the markers are made of galvanized iron or are simple wooden crosses. After years of a combination of being outdoors in the elements, neglect, and vandalism, the graves are now rusting, melting, deformed, falling over, or sinking into the soil.

 

German names like Wunsch and Weglarz are peeling off, rusted, or in some cases, bleeding metal.

 

Broken off statues of Jesus, Mary, and praying children nestle in the grass. On the grave of Hesbach, Jesus is sinking into the cross. Some of the graves are covered over in weeds and plants. One tin hollow grave had been blown over on its side in the wind and was blocking the path. Erecting it upright, it weighed no more than a can of beans.

 

Helena and Jacob Ament

 

John J. Hildemann (who died in infancy) and John F. Hildemann

Marie Carter is a writer, editor, and tour guide from Scotland, residing in New York City. She is the author of the books Holly’s Hurricane (forthcoming in November 2018) and The Trapeze Diaries. For more information: www.mariewritesandedits.com.

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9/3/18


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3 Responses to MOST HOLY TRINITY CEMETERY, Bushwick

  1. John Dereszewski says:

    Thanks for this very interesting article. Most Holy Trinity cemetery was, until the 1980’s or so, still managed by the parish of that name that is situated on Montrose Ave. in Williamsburg. (The Brooklyn diocese now runs it.) It replaced the parish’s initial graveyard, which was situated next to its first church. (The current and far more elaborate church dates from the 1880’s.) The building that occupies the graveyard’s site now houses an elementary school and once also hosted a high school for men, which closed in 1972. (I was a member of the class of 1968.) The fact that this building contains no basement strongly suggests that the remains of some bodies still rest there – though efforts were made to remove all of them to the new cemetery.

    There are two stories given for the metallic nature of the tombstones. The first, the noble one, was included in the article. The second more skeptical reason concerns the extremely soggy nature of the cemetery’s ground, which was apparently unable to support the installation of heavier stone and concrete markers. Since the lighter metal monuments worked better, they were used. (This might have been the reason why the owners of the adjacent Evergreen Cemetery, which initially owned the site, were willing to unload it to the good people of MHT.)

    While no notable persons are currently buried here, initially the tombs of the parish’s first two pastors were. There is a rather big monument toward the middle of the cemetery that marks the initial place of entombment. Some years ago – I have no idea when – the bodies were moved to the church’s crypt. If you take a tour of the church – which I highly recommend – you can visit the tombs. These were notable churchmen who established the first substantial Catholic parish in northern Brooklyn as well as a number of satellite churches – St. Nicholas and Assumption being only two of the bunch – and founded St. Catherine’s Hospital, which until it closed in – I think – the 1960’s – was a major medical presence in north Brooklyn.

  2. Larry says:

    I have a question…Isnt this the split level station on the Canarsie line..Because of the Cemetery….I took the train there once and then changed for the B-60 Bus on Wilson Ave

    • John Dereszewski says:

      Yes, this is the Wilson Ave. station of the L line. It also has an interesting history. When they needed to build the Canarsie line in this area, the only available space was a portion of a narrow mapped street – Chauncey by name – which was situated between the cemetery and a wide and elevated LIRR right of way. In order to do this, the engineers needed to make it a two level station and construct a long passageway under the LIRR to the station’s entrance at the end of Wilson Ave. The station’s entrance is at ground level as is the (lower) Manhattan bound track. While it looks like your average below ground station, if you pulled down the walls, you would be at the exact level of the cemetery grounds. I am not aware of any other NYC station that is anything like this.

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