The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

reticence shown

with 5 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I fear that I’ve become quite focused on Calvary Cemetery again. Recent caches of primary sources have been discovered which have all but confirmed certain hypothetical precepts, and illumined certain unimagined parameters to my studies. As yellowed maps and time blasted books have passed before my startled eyes, dawning realizations about the structure which underlies the place torment my curiosity.

Allow me to explain…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek guy, that’s me- part of the history crowd from Queens- harmless.

The history part is what I’m interested in, and everything I’ve read or witnessed around the Newtown Creek indicates that while First Calvary Cemetery was incorporated in 1848- when the first recorded interment took place (more on that in a later post)– an interval of roughly 5-10 years preceded the beginning of an era which saw as many as 20 funerals conducted during a single day. Immigration patterns can explain this, of course, but the primary sources which have been consulted describe something else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the sewers.

Two interesting leads have presented themselves, the first having led to:

The Rosary Magazine, in a report from 1908, via Google Books, offers this snippet:

On November 11, Archbishop Farley of New York dedicated a new mortuary chapel which was recently erected under the title of St. Callistus in Calvary Cemetery, Long Island. The Mass on the occasion was sung by Mgr. Lavelle and the sermon preached by Mgr. Mooney. The new structure will serve the double purpose of chapel and mausoleum. Below the chapel floor there is a crypt containing one hundred and fourteen vaults, in which hereafter will be buried the priests of the New York Archdiocese. The idea of such a building was first conceived by Archbishop Farley some four years ago. The structure is quite an imposing one, built of granite and Saracenic in its style of architecture. It is ninety-six feet long and sixty-four feet wide. The auditorium will accommodate two hundred and fifty persons. Surmounting the dome is a fine figure of the risen Christ, designed by Miss Melro Beatrice Wilson. When finished the total cost of the building will approximate $200,000. The building was designed by Raymond F. Almirall.

Here’s the cutaway architect drawing, courtesy again- Google Books:

Long time readers will remember that the Chapel has been previously profiled at this- your Newtown Pentacle- in the post “scenes familiar, and loved“.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The catacombs beneath the Calvary Cemetery Chapel are fairly old news to long time readers, but… back to those sewers.

The second interesting nugget that I’ve turned up recently is (other than fascinating references to an excommunicated and controversial 19th century Catholic priest named McGlynn) that there seems to have been a legal issue settled by the State of New York which involved the removal of tens of thousands of tons of Calvary topsoil, and it’s eventual disposition on Catholic owned farms in Jamaica which aroused and infuriated the largely Protestant agricultural community of Newtown. This topsoil was removed “during the building of Calvary Cemetery, with its modern sewerage system”.

The building…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I haven’t screwed the lid down on this one yet, so I’m not sharing links on this, but- the various sources I’m working on have opened up the reality that the hill of Laurels is in fact engineered ground. Discussions of enormous underground culverts and diversion channels for water, titan work forces, and a decade long struggle to turn the marshy waste land around the Newtown Creek into the well drained and immaculately landscaped¬†structure we know today have consumed me- and driven Our Lady of the Pentacle to near madness.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

5 Responses

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  1. McGlynn was a formidable inspiration. It took a lot of energy by the entrenched powers on two continents to stifle him. Allied with Henry George, he was part of a magnificent assault upon the grinding, slaughterous infliction that befell his parishioners. Not long from now will George’s ideas be recalled and applied anew, but another McGlynn shouldn’t be expected to emerge from what the Roman Catholic church has been ordaining.

    TJ Connick

    February 11, 2011 at 12:04 am

  2. Do you think the “building” of Calvary has anything to to with the project of landscaping Central Park? They both seem to have came into existence at around the same time.


    February 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

    • Although both were dependent on “cheap irish labor” to get the project done, remember that Queens was absolutely rural back then. I’m sure similar solutions to drainage and earth moving were utilized. Great question, hadn’t even considered that angle.

      Mitch Waxman

      February 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

  3. […] watched, I nevertheless continued my “business” at Calvary. Antiquarian pursuits and historical inquiries aside, it was quite a lovely day- and the first hint of spring was in the […]

  4. […] shaped repository which contains the remains of thousands of priests and nuns, in a catacomb which lies some 50 feet below the Almirall […]

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