Explore Woodhaven's forgotten cemetery
Nov 03, 2015 | 5869 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Wyckoff-Snedicker being cleaned up by volunteers.
The Wyckoff-Snedicker being cleaned up by volunteers.
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The Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society will host an open house at the most historic spot in Woodhaven - the Colonial Era cemetery - on Saturday, November 14. There will be a brief ceremony at 1 p.m. on the front lawn of All Saints Church at 96th Street and 86th Avenue followed by a tour of Woodhaven’s historic cemetery. The event is free and everyone is welcome.

Speaking to many residents of Woodhaven over the past two years, I’ve discovered that many of them have never seen the Wyckoff-Snedicker Family Cemetery in person, making this an ideal opportunity to cross that off your bucket list.

The Wyckoff-Snedicker cemetery contains many names that you will find familiar. The Elderts, the Lotts, the Wyckoffs, the Ditmars. One might as well call our cemetery the Queens’ Founders Cemetery since it contains so many of the residents that lived here when Queens and Woodhaven were founded – and perhaps even long before that.

We’ve been blessed to have Queens historian and Woodhaven native Allan Smith with us as a guide. Smith has grown up with the cemetery and is an invaluable source of information regarding its history.

We’ve been bolstered by the students from St. Thomas the Apostle’s Woodhaven History Club, led by teacher Patty Eggers, and Boy Scout Troop 139 from Howard Beach led by Chris Flood, as well as many other volunteers from around the neighborhood, including Eddie Gardiner, Nubia Martinez, Lydia Martin, Marge Augliera and WRBA’s President Martin Colberg and Vice-President Giedra Kregzdys.

Through funding from council members Eric Ulrich and Elizabeth Crowley, we’ve been able to secure the tools necessary to cut down the weeds and complete the first part of the restoration, which was basically a monthly cleanup.

This past summer, the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society also secured a grant from The Citizens Committee of New York City, an organization that offers many small grants to people and organizations who are looking to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. The grant from CCNYC resulted in a new lawnmower and a shed to help store and organize our tools and supplies.

And a special thank you to John Eggers and Eggers Construction, who donated their tools and supplies to put the shed together.

The Woodhaven History Club of STA has not only been working the soil, they have also been performing the research, adding to what we know about the people and families who are buried in our historic little cemetery.

This has turned from being a simple cleanup exercise into a true historical research project, and we’re finding out many interesting things about the people who are buried there. If you come out to the open house on the 14th, you’ll find out a bit more about some of the history of the permanent residents of the Woodhaven cemetery.

When we first walked into the cemetery last summer, the weeds were over our heads, from one end of the cemetery to the other. Through the hard work of our volunteers we’ve knocked that back to the point where the majority of the work is now being done by a lawnmower.

But the restoration is far from over, and we are in need of more volunteers to help us with the next phase. Eventually, we hope to see this cemetery turned into an open green space; a beautiful place where residents can go to sit and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.

Over the next year, we intend to turn the soil and flatten the land. We have the tools and the organization, we just need more volunteers. Come out and be a part of this great project. It's fun, you get to meet a lot of nice people, and it's great exercise.

More important, the end result is that you'll be a part of something that helps the community, something you can be really proud of.

If you are interested, please contact us at woodhavenhistory@gmail.com to find out when our next restoration event will be. In the meantime, mark the 14th down on your calendars. We hope to see you there.

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