Albany Rural Cemetery
Occupying over 450 acres, the Albany Rural Cemetery (ARC) sits just north of the New York state capital. Founded in 1841 and dedicated in 1844, it is home to over 135,000 burial sites and is still an active cemetery. It is a fine example of a pastoral or garden cemetery that was popular at that time in the tradition of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. ARC has numerous people of note interred within its confines and is home to some of the finest funerary art in the country. It was added the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Backstory and Context
As the country grew and industrialized in the mid-19th century, many communities began to rethink their burial practices. Up to that time, people were traditionally buried in their local church’s cemetery. As these sites became overcrowded, as did pauper burial sites, fear also spread, not totally unfounded, that they also spread infectious diseases, such as cholera. The living also sought to escape the crowded, filthy, urban centers and, in an age before public parks, the garden cemetery movement was fostered. The ARC is a prime example of that movement as it served the dual purpose of being a repository for the dead as well as a natural retreat for the living.
Congressman Daniel Bernard delivered the dedication address in 1844 at a site that was chosen for its tranquility and rural beauty. The original 100-acre plot has obviously since expanded, but has maintained its bucolic nature. It now contains roads that wend their way through a forested, rolling landscape. The ARC also contains two large streams that contain small waterfalls and two ponds that host various waterfowl. These streams divide the cemetery into thirds, known as the North, Middle and South Ridges. Humans, it turns out, are not the only things that visit the ARC as deer, woodchuck, raccoons and other forms of wildlife are frequently spotted.
Interspersed among the trees and hills are the final resting spots of numerous people of note, to include a former president, and former members of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, presidential cabinet members, governors of New York, mayors of Albany and over 1,000 Civil War veterans. Many of their graves are adorned with exquisite funerary sculptures by such artists as Erastus Dow Palmer (who is also buried here), Charles Calverley, Ephraim Keyser, and Oscar Lenz.
Famous individuals buried at the ARC include:
Chester A. and Ellen Arthur – 21st President of the United States and First Lady.
Philip Schuyler – Revolutionary War veteran, U.S. Senator from New York and father-in-law to Alexander Hamilton.
William Paterson – U.S. Senator, Governor of New Jersey, Supreme Court Justice and signer of the U.S. Constitution.
William Learned Macy – U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.
Stephen Van Rensselaer – last Dutch Patroon and founder of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
John Van Buren – Son of President Martin Van Buren
William James – grandfather of author Henry James.
John Canfield Spencer – Secretaries of War and Treasury under President John Tyler.
"What makes ARC Special?" Albany Rural Cemetery. Accessed February 9, 2017. http://albanyruralcemetery.org/about-arc/what-makes-arc-special/
"These Exalted Acres: Unlocking the Secrets of Albany Rural Cemetery." Times Union. 2013. Accessed February 9, 2017. http://www.timesunion.com/albanyrural/
Denner, Daniel. "For a spook, visit Albany Rural Cemetery." Troy Record. October 24, 2009. Accessed February 9, 2017. http://www.troyrecord.com/article/TR/20091024/NEWS/310249997
Lemire, Paula. "Albany Rural Cemetery: a tour of (a few) favorites." All Over Albany. March 28, 2016. Accessed February 9, 2017. http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2016/03/28/albany-rural-cemetery-favorite-monuments