6 Westchester Cemeteries Filled With Beauty and History

With pastoral beauty, ethereal artwork, and rich history, a meticulously cared-for cemetery is arguably an outdoor museum. These six Westchester cemeteries are prime exemplars of this and well worth the time to visit.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Sleepy Hollow • est. 1849

The 100-acre nondenominational Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which has numerous notable interments, is oft confused with the contiguous and smaller (at about three acres) Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground. Settlers from Holland built the latter between 1685 and 1697. The stone church and churchyard are still owned by the original congregation, known as The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns.

andrew carhegie grave in cemetery
Photo by Frank Roberts
andrew carnegie grave
The grave of Andrew Carnegie, once one of the wealthiest individuals in the world and quite the philanthropist, is marked by a Celtic cross and footstone. Photo by Frank Roberts
grave and flags in cemetery
Author Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is set in the adjacent burying ground, at the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. Photo by Frank Roberts
grave in cemetery
Photo by Frank Roberts
Pictured is a section of the natural burial grounds at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. The sustainable space is for green burials and cremations using only biodegradable, natural materials. Photo by Frank Roberts
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, bordered by Rockefeller State Park, the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, and the Pocantico River, surrounds the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground. By Frank Roberts.

Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Hawthorne • est. 1917

Gate of Heaven Cemetery has interred more than 190,000 Catholics and members of their families since its founding. John Cardinal Farley, archbishop of New York, consecrated the cemetery on July 14, 1918. It averages more than 2,200 interment services each year.

cemetery grave
Baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1946. He died two years later. His body lay in state at the main entrance to Yankee Stadium for a public viewing for two days, which attracted hundreds of viewers. His second wife, Claire, is buried beside him at the cemetery. Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
structure in cemetery
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
grave in cemetery
Buried in the the Saint Francis of Assisi Mausoleum is Manhattan-born actor James Cagney, who won a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Broadway composer George M. Cohan in 1942’s Yankee Doodle Dandy. Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

Old Van Cortlandtville Cemetery

Cortlandt Manor • est. 1750

On the National Register of Historic Places, this six-acre cemetery is the burial site of at least 44 American Revolutionary War soldiers (and possibly up to 60).

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A black granite, anvil-shaped six-plus-ton monument is dedicated to Seth Pomeroy, who fought at Bunker Hill and was later commissioned as the first brigadier general of the United States by General George Washington. Photo by Frank Roberts
graves in cemetery
There are eight unnamed graves of French soldiers who fought under Comte de Rochambeau, the French general who aided George Washington, most significantly at the 1781 Battle of Yorktown. Photo by Frank Roberts
The fourth oldest church in New York State is the red clapboard Old St. Peter’s Church built in 1766, measuring 28 feet by 36 feet. Photo by Frank Roberts

African American Cemetery

Rye • est. 1860

There are an estimated 300 people buried at the African American Cemetery, located inside the Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, although many do not have headstones or formal markers. Closed for new burials in 1964, when the segregation of cemeteries ended, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Among the interred are 22 veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II.

civil war grave
Civil War veteran Samuel Marshell fought in the Battle of Harper’s Ferry and was held as a prisoner of war by Confederate forces. Photo by Frank Roberts
endless hudson cemetery grave
Photo by Frank Roberts
grave in cemetery
U.S. Navy veteran Edwin Purdy was likely a runaway slave prior to his military service in the Civil War. He served on the iron-clad class ship U.S.S. Monadnock (misspelled on the grave) from August 1864 to July 1865. Photo by Frank Roberts

Kensico Cemetery

Valhalla • est. 1889

By the late 1800s, when many New York City cemeteries were becoming full, rural cemeteries were created near the railroads that served the city. Kensico was one such cemetery, with 460 acres of hillsides, pathways, woodlands, ponds, brooks, and streams, serving multidenominational needs.

cemetery grave
Actress Appleton “Billie Burke,” best known for playing the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz, is buried aside her showman husband, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
cemetery structure
The Gothic-style Kensico Tower at the upper entrance is 98 feet tall. Within, a 100,000-gallon water tank is used for the grounds’ gardening needs. Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
stairs in cemetery
Interred at The Mecca Temple are nine members of the Masonic society Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, better known today as Shriners International. Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
Lou Gehrig, aka “The Iron Horse,” known for his incredible endurance and .340 career batting average, was a New York City native who lived in New Rochelle for six years, in a house he bought in 1927 for his parents at 9 Meadow Lane. Photo by Ken Gabrielsen.

Sparta Cemetery

Ossining • est. 1764

Also known as the Presbyterian Burying Ground at Sparta, the two-acre property was given to congregants of the First Presbyterian Church of Ossining by Dutch merchant Frederick Philipse, one of the greatest landholders in pre-Revolutionary New York. Sparta is the oldest organized burial ground in Ossining.

A plaque by the Daughters of the American Revolution commemorates the incident whereby a cannon shot by the British warship Vulture during a September 1780 battle with colonists damaged the headstone of Abraham LaDew, who was born in 1767 and died in 1774, at the age of 7. Via a directive in his will, LaDew’s father (also named Abraham) had a brick wall constructed around his family’s plot. Photo by Frank Roberts
sign in cemetery
Known for his handmade leather clothing and a 365-mile loop he’d make stopping in myriad towns in Westchester and Connecticut, The Leatherman lived in rock shelters and was thought to have originally been from Lyons, France. Photo by Frank Roberts
grave in cemetery
The only sculpture in Sparta marks the grave of 2-year-old Violet Donahue, who died on December 30, 1892. Photo by Frank Roberts
grave in cemetery
A carved sandstone marker for John Brenegen, who died in 1856. Photo by Frank Roberts

Related: What Happens After White Plains Rural Cemetery Fills Its Last 100 Plots

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