Wherein We Discover an Obscure NYC CEMETERY on the Grounds of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

It was humbling to realize that for the past twenty years I’ve  been working within a twenty minute walk from a bustling industrial universe of which I have been entirely unaware.

Last semester I finally toured the Brooklyn Navy Yard with a group of City Tech professors  – officially, we were “Second-Year Fellows participating in the General Education Seminar part of City Tech’s Title V grant-funded initiative, A Living Laboratory”  and we were exploring the use of high impact pedagogical techniques, particularly “field-based collaborative research projects”  to improve our sophomore- year classes.

Have you been to the Navy Yard?  If you have had your car towed in Brooklyn, you know whereof I speak, but if you have not, let me tell you what you can see there, including the dilapidated yet beautiful group of houses called “Admirals Row” which (controversially) are going to be torn down to build a supermarket. You can see a video of the Row on Youtube.

There is a rather spooky abandoned Naval Hospital and cemetery there as well!

Our tour began in the only part of the Navy Yard that is open to the public for free, Building 92.  It looks very modern, but Building 92 is an “adaptively reused” 1858 building. It is uber green and very proud of it.

Building 92 houses a cool museum on the history of the Navy Yard over the past 165 years.

There are exhibits on the various types of boats built at the Navy Yard.

The people who worked there,

and even the animal life of the yard.

After the museum, we boarded a bus with a great driver

and guide.

They took us by various buildings housing all sorts of industry.  We saw a dry-dock (a big bathtub into which they steer a ship and then let out the water so they can do repairs) and then we drove around until we came to a gated area (inside the entirely fenced-in Navy Yard itself).  This 24 acre area contained the deserted Naval Hospital and Surgeon’s House (both NYC landmarks)

as well as a cemetery, all “virtually frozen in time” according to the Navy Yard’s visitor’s pamphlet.

The pamphlet notes that the Naval Hospital was built in 1838 and it supplied a majority of the medicine used by the Northern army during the Civil War.  The government used the hospital until after World War II.

We didn’t get off the bus, but the cemetery looked unkempt.  It was fenced off and weed-choked. I wished I could go have a look, alas that was not to be .

But here is why I love the internet – someone else wanted to see it too!  They posted a video of the other side of the cemetery on Youtube!

Our guide told us that the cemetery held the remains of US sailors as well as others of all races and creeds.  In the 1920’s theoretically “all” of the residents of the cemetery were re-interred somewhere else.  But oops, bones popped up later when the 1.7 acres site was used as a ball field!  Now, nothing goes on there except for the lives of feral cats.

New York City bought the entire Naval Hospital property from the federal government in 2001.  The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation has plans to “redevelop this site as an entertainment and media campus”. Huh?  People have various ideas about what would be best to do with the cemetery area in particular – here is a good article in LMagazine about “What To Do With That Old Cemetery” that is just sitting there. I love the idea of a publicly accessible wildflower meadow – what do you think?

You can visit Building 92 (current hours Weds-Sun 12 – 6PM, but check first).  They even have a nice snack bar upstairs.  You can also take bike tours ($24/2 hours) or bus tours ($18/$30 depending on the length of the tour).  If you aren’t up to a whole visit, you can still take a walk by Admirals Row on Flushing Avenue or just enjoy this neat video shot in the Row and set to Radiohead:


3 Responses to “Wherein We Discover an Obscure NYC CEMETERY on the Grounds of the Brooklyn Navy Yard”

  1. 1 Alexander August 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    ‘As big as the Empire State building… You could fit it into this drydock’. There were many memorable moments to visit especially because of all the people we were visiting the site with.

  2. 2 Cathy October 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I never knew what that building was….the one that I would crane my neck to see whenever I drove over the Gowanus/LIE. It was a seemingly unused building on well kept grounds devoid of human forms. Now I know that it’s the deserted Naval Hospital! Mystery solved!! I really want to visit the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As a life long Bay Ridge resident, I’ve traveled past this section of Brooklyn THOUSANDS of times and just recently learned that this is part of the navy yard. There’s so much cool stuff to see. Thanks for posting those great photos & video!

  1. 1 A Cool Coffin from Ghana « The Dearly Departed Trackback on September 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

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