Waterbury's Historic Cemeteries
Explore the Brass City's cemeteries, and learn about the people who made this industrial city.
Waterbury's first Jewish Cemetery opened in 1875. At the time, it was situated on what was known as the Cheshire Turnpike Road. That road - now called Plank Rd - is now in two parts interrupted by Interstate 84. By the end of the 19th century, Waterbury was also home to a community of "Russian" Jews who established their own burial grounds about 1.5 miles north on Stillson Rd. Across from this "Russian" cemetery is St. Mary's Orthodox cemetery, while Melchizedek abuts the Lithuanian Cemetery.
Situated atop one of Waterbury's highest elevations, Calvary Cemetery - named after the site of the Crucifixion - is the city's second Catholic cemetery. It opened in 1892 to accommodate a rapidly growing Catholic population. Consisting of less than 10 families in 1832, Catholics numbered about 6000 in 1892 - more than half of the city's total population. From the cemetery's highest point, the visitor can get a panoramic view of Waterbury's surrounding hills.
St. Joseph's Cemetery - Waterbury's first Catholic Cemetery - was consecrated in 1858, one year after the establishment of Waterbury's first Catholic parish. For the 25-30 years prior to this, Waterbury Catholics were associated with St. Mary's Church in New Haven, and their dead were buried in its associated cemetery, some 25 miles away. Despite its name, St. Joseph's is still active; it is has been called "old" since the opening of New St. Joseph's Cemetery .5 mile south on Hamilton Avenue.
This was where "the town's poor" who could not afford to pay for a lot in any of the other cemeteries would be lain to rest. It was established in 1856 - three years after its stately neighbor, Riverside Cemetery. Records of its use are scarce, but it was in disuse and mostly forgotten by the mid-1960s. Around that time, most of the land that comprised the cemetery was re-purposed for off-ramps ferrying traffic from Interstate 84 onto Sunnyside Street and CT Route 8 South.
Riverside Cemetery was established in 1853 - the same year that Waterbury officially became a city. It was designed to be a "Rural Cemetery," part of an aesthetic movement to create burial parks. Cemeteries like Riverside were intended to act almost as public parks - a place where people could escape the bustle of the city and take a pleasant stroll among the trees and streams.
Silas Bronson Library and Library park sit atop Waterbury's original burial grounds. Some graves were moved to other cemeteries when the first library was built here in 1893-4. However, many graves and their headstones were simply buried deeper. The park was expanded to its current size c.1920. Approximately 3 dozen gravestones that had been stored in the library's basement are installed along a brick retaining wall facing Meadow St. The current library building was built in the 1960s on the same footprint as the original.