Maintaining a cemetery through 163 years is a monumental task. During the mid to late 1900s the cemetery was managed so poorly that in 1995 Cypress Hills Cemetery was on the brink of bankruptcy and going into receivership. A cemetery where over 300,000 loved ones lay to rest was degraded into a forgotten wasteland. The weeds and brush overtook the landscape and the beautiful cemetery art disappeared.
Not only was the cemetery struggling with its appearance but also its finances. As we all know, it is difficult to improve something without the funds. We were lucky in that we had a good foundation to work with. We had a historic 225-acre cemetery which just needed a little TLC. The managers gave the cemetery the attention and care it deserved and were rewarded. They restored their relationship with the local funeral directors and plot owners and regained the trust of the State Cemetery Board. This enabled us to become one of the busiest cemeteries in New York City and each year we continue the trend upward.
Today we have a group of 50 employees, both in the field and the office, which uphold our reputation and enhance the family’s experience from the minute they step in our gate. From the impeccable maintenance of the grounds to the kind and courteous office personnel, wherever you go you will find a helping hand.
A Cemetery of Tomorrow
We also remain very active in our community throughout the year. Being involved in the community is the most important aspect of our cemetery. We have stood in this same area of land for nearly two centuries and we have a close relationship with our community. Since the restoration of the cemetery we have done many things to enhance that relationship. Most recently we have organized a listing of all our notable burials, along with a map which is included in this nomination, which we give to visitors. We urge them to take tours, visit the graves, and enjoy the serene landscape. We have held numerous bus tours featuring a presentation by a cemetery historian. We have also organized an official cemetery book that documents the history of the cemetery, analyzes the cemetery artwork, and gives families a record of their loved one’s final resting place.
Beyond these publications and other programs that we have put in place, we host many different kinds of events at the cemetery, inviting members of the community to participate. ome of the events include: Veteran’s Day memorials, monument unveilings, chapel services, candlelight vigils. These programs have created a bond between the community and the cemetery.
Constantly improving is what we hope to maintain going into the future. Being a non-profit organization we have the ability to use funds to host events, refinish historic buildings, and organize programs and materials for the community. It allows us to be creative, imaginative, and innovative regarding the advancement of our cemetery. We recently finished a massive restoration of our front entrance by replicating the original entrance which was built in 1893. To me it is a symbol of how far our cemetery has come and our intention to bring it back to its glory days.
2011 ACE Award Winner
In our efforts to restore the integrity of the cemetery and its community, Cypress Hills Cemetery was awarded the 2011 American Cemetery of Excellence award. We have brought the cemetery from the depths of despair and created a place rich in beauty, history, and innovation. We have faced tremendous adversity and tribulations but we have come out unscathed. We have become a place which the community holds up in high regard. Our carefully manicured grounds, our innovative community outreach programs, and our ever increasing operations are a constant reminder that we have achieved our goal. Our work is far from over. With the help of our dedicated and trustworthy staff, we have the opportunity to enhance the cemetery well into the future. We take so much pride in how far we come and we strive to improve everyday.