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Tales of Calvary 13- The Callahan monument

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the fifth of December, a date which the pagans once called Faunalia. In 1945, Flight 19 disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, and we only have to wait 16 more days for the Mayan Apocalypse to occur.

Why not spend the day in Section 6?

Cornelius Callahan and his family are represented by an enigmatic monument at Calvary Cemetery, here in western Queens, which is remarkable not just for sheer size but for workmanship and design as well. Callahan was chairman of the building committee for the Catholic Archdiocese, and was credited with being instrumental to the building of the orphan asylums in Kingsbridge by Archbishop Farley himself. He died on June 8, 1911.

You can read his obituary at the nytimes, click through and scroll down to the bottom left of the page.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be mentioned that this monument is the sculptural capstone of a family crypt. In addition to Cornelius, his wife(s), sister, daughter and apparently a pet named Emma are buried beneath this block of carved stone. Daughter Katie M. Callahan was meant to inherit the paternal fortune, provided she bear offspring, but unfortunately she left this mortal coil before her father. The story of the execution of the will has survived the passage of 101 years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The will Cornelius left behind stipulated that his properties be sold off and the proceeds divided amongst several individuals but the primary beneficiary was the Archdiocese itself. Records of a lawsuit persist in the historic record which state that the Church and other heirs would have preferred the deed to the midtown Manhattan properties rather than the cash, but a judge ruled in favor of Cornelius’s estate and Mr. Callahan’s stated wishes. Even 101 years ago, retaining Manhattan Real Estate was seen as a better investment than selling it, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A good amount of looking around revealed little else about the Callahans, although they were obviously people of high station and attainment. Cornelius, as stated above, was the chair of the Building Committee for the Archdiocese of New York during a historical period when it was at its nadir- politically and financially speaking. This was an era of church building, parochial campus expansion, and an age when the Irish (in particular) ruled over the City. Mr. Callahan would have overseen a small army of construction workers, suppliers, and itinerant laborers in his professional capacity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You never know who you might run across at Calvary Cemetery. The Original Gangster, a King of Ireland, the Abbot, or even the Newsboy Governor. This is where Tammany Hall lies, dreaming but not dead, alongside those huddled masses who legendarily yearned to breathe free. Wandering its emerald devastations, one can barely hope to comprehend the transmogrification accomplished by those interred here. They found a city of two and three story wooden buildings, and within a generation or two, altered it into the heroic shape of modern day New York City.

Have a happy Faunalia, lords and ladies, and embrace your loved ones, for the Mayan Apocalypse draws nigh.

first, Calvary

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Woe to that New Yorker who achieves our common societal goal, which is being always at the head of a long queue- first in line.

There isn’t much I can tell you about Esther Ennis, an Irish immigrant, other than she was the very first person buried in Calvary Cemetery in 1848. Intonations and rumors of a broken heart followed her to the grave, which seem to allude to a love affair gone wrong and conjure lurid fantasies of the port city of New York in the 1840’s. Unfortunately, no primary sources have emerged that discuss the young (for our modern era) woman.


On August 4, 1848, the new cemetery called Calvary Cemetery received its first interment, one Esther ENNIS. The purchase of this parcel of land and the acquisition over the years of over two hundred additional acres, enabled Calvary Cemetery to support the needs of most Catholics in the Archdiocese, especially in the New York City area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite obviously, this isn’t the original grave marker, its style and typography betray a 20th century vintage, and your humble narrator would wager that it was carved sometime in the 1920-1970 time period based on style and material. A half remembered and impossible to locate report from some forgotten publication once revealed that an Irish organization like the Hibernians (or was it a Catholic Charity of some stripe?) made it their business to place this marker on the presumed gravesite in Section 1 in First Calvary, but it doesn’t seem to have made it online so I may not supply a link to you- lords and ladies.

Regardless, this is one of Calvary Cemetery’s proverbial “needles in a haystack locations“, and is one easily bypassed by casual visitors to the great polyandrion.

from, an article from 1884 about Calvary’s first grave digger, John McCann

“Thirty-six years ago yesterday the first body was interred in Calvary Cemetery,” said John McCann, gatekeeper at the main entrance to the cemetery yesterday afternoon. “Yes, Sir, I remember it well. It was the body of Esther Ennis, a handsome looking Irish girl, who …

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan address demarcated on the stone is 139 Clinton Street, which, presuming that the addresses on Clinton Street conform to the same logic as they did in 1848, should be here.

The following is one of the stitched panorama images which always present themselves awkwardly due to their odd shape. It’s an attempt to display the absolute magnitude of this spot, and the explosive growth of Calvary Cemetery from this exact location.

Frozen Calvary

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was the scene on Friday at Calvary Cemetery. A minimum of 3-4 feet of ice and snow was apparent, and although the hard working grounds crew had cleared the Boundary Road and created certain obvious pathways to recent interments, access to to vast tracts of the place was impossible.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

Tales of Calvary 12- The Lynch monument

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A magnificent and somewhat unique example of mortuary sculpture found at First Calvary Cemetery here in Queens is the Lynch monument. The screeds engraved on it indicate the presence of several generations of the family, and the quality of the stone work indicates that the Lynches were notable figures during their time. As mentioned in the past, however, when one is searching for information on individuals with a “common” name (particularly a common Irish surname) – things get a little hazy. There have been a lot of folks, both famous and infamous, named “James Lynch”.

Here’s what I’ve been able to positively attribute to this James Lynch, and a promising (tantalizing actually) but false lead…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When James Lynch’s will was read, it caused quite a stir- it seems that the inheritance he left for his widow and children was in excess of 1.5 million dollars (in 1873, mind you), or so says the archives. Now, 1.5 million in 1873 was a heck of a lot more money then than now- which means that this fellow was “somebody”. But who?

The archive article denoting the disposition of his will puts the family residence at 129 East 21st street in Manhattan- a tony and somewhat aristocratic address in 1873 (and today) located near Gramercy Park. Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, was born around the corner in 1858 and other neighbors included Samuel Tilden, Peter Cooper, and George Templeton Strong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The false lead– I suspected that this might be the same James Lynch (of Tammany) who aroused the ire of the future “paper of record” with a controversial order to the Warden of Bellevue Hospital in 1860 that remanded the bodies of the poor to scientific study (medical schools) and the inquiry of the vivisectionists (coroners).

quoth from the archives

All non-professional men who have ever had occasion to visit a dissecting-room, can well understand the intense loathing and horror with which even condemned malefactors shrink from that portion of the death-sentence which delivers over their bodies after execution to be dissected for the instruction of medical students. No sight can be imagined more revoltingly hideous and horrible than the scientific shambles in which human carcases are cut up, disemboweled, torn limb from limb, dissected and tossed from hand to hand by the young acolytes of surgical science. Half a dozen bodies in this way come to be mingled together in one disgusting mass of flesh, bone, tissues, hair and bowels. Different students carry off particular limbs or organs for home dissection; and then the mingled remains are placed in sacks and carted away at midnight, to be dumped out of sight in whatever sinks or holes the surgeons may have selected for this purpose.

But, alas, I was incorrect.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

click image for a larger and more detailed incarnation

The illustration above, as well as the following text originate in John J. Foster’s “Visitor’s Guide to Calvary Cemetery” published in 1873

Plot O, Range 9, which is a little to the north of the resident clergyman’s dwelling, (and of which we give an illustration).

It is in the classic style, and consists of a superstructure of solid Quincy granite, in the form of a tomb, with polished columns supporting its entablature, surmounted by a draped sarcophagus, in one entire piece, of the finest Carrara marble. At each end of the base of the tomb, seated on clouds, is an angel, one with a trumpet, to call to judgment; the other emblematic of immortality. These figures are separate memorials. The former having been erected to the memory of the late Miss Katie Lynch, and the latter to the late Miss Agnes Lynci, his two daughters.

The whole work rests on a vault constructed after the style of the old Roman catacombs.

Mr. James Lynch was born December 23, 1805, and died December 14, I873. For nearly thirty years he devoted his attention to the grocery business on an extensive scale, in the city of New York, and retired with a competency in the year 1853. He was a favorite with all who enjoyed his acquaintance, and was well known to the public through his good offices and his manifold services in the advancement of all wise and charitable undertakings that came to his notice. The lively interest he excited in all who knew him secured for him many constant friends who now mourn his loss. His good deeds still survive him. The name of such men should be preserved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Clicking on the 1873 illustration, one observes that the only name on this monument when it was drawn was that of the sire of the clan. Scrutiny of the image also reveals an extensive series of footing stones, rails, and decorative plot demarkations which have not survived the century. Additionally, the entire family seems to be accounted for on the monument, with the last interment (Mary Ann) listed as 1922.

I was able to find a scant mention of Emily F. Lynch in the obituaries of the archives. She lived at 405 Park Avenue, and died there as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In addition to the remarkable centerpiece of the monument, one observes the presence of two weeping angels at the tomb, the presence of which are described in the quoted text as having been installed as separate monuments to Mr. Lynch’s daughters.

Like many of the fine marbles and ornate carvings extant at Calvary Cemetery, long exposure to the toxic atmospheres produced by the industries of the nearby Newtown Creek has badly damaged these sculptural elements, imparting an impression that the stone is melted or rotting away.

This isn’t far from the truth- the nearby Phelps Dodge (then called General Chemical) was actually sued by Calvary’s Board of Trustees in the late 19th century regarding the airborne exhaust of their brimstone based acid manufacturing business and its noxious effluents, and the concept of petrochemical pollution creating “acid rain” is well known to modernity.


On the plant grounds, General Chemical erected the tallest chimney in the United States to blow the smoke and gases from its furnace away from the neighborhood. For the past number of years neighbor surrounding the plant complained vociferously about the pollution from the factory. Only after a study found that nitric, muriatic, and sulphuric acids from the plant were destroying local cemeteries’ tombstones did the company try and alleviate the problem by building the chimney. This same year the company filed plans with the New York City’s Department of Buildings in Queens to build another 150 foot chimney, an ore breaker, a storage tank, a boiler house, and a stable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYTimes archives also present a short death notice for Peter W. Lynch, of 253 west 62nd street, whose death corresponds with the date ascribed to Peter W. Lynch on the stone. I have no way of determining if this is the same man, however.

I could find nothing on Katie, but this is not uncommon for the era, as women seldom received mention if they weren’t scandalous, married to, or the mother of a famous man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

James D. Lynch died at a 120 West 21st street address in 1917, just down the block from the patriarch’s house. Mary Ann and E. Louise seem to have escaped notice when they passed.

Like many of the older plots at Calvary, which once sat long avenues and lanes which were meant to remain as such, the Lynch monument is surrounded by more modern graves. Such is the lot of older cemeteries, whose financial realities demand that new interments must be made in order to maintain the ongoing operations of the enterprise.

A plot purchased in the 1860’s, after all, hardly figured in the cost of 150 years of groundskeeping. This created no small amount of controversy in the past amongst the descendants of those who lie here, but in the end, Calvary prevailed. This is why you’ll often observe modern grave markers peppering around the edges of grandly august Mausolea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hey, you never know what you’re going to find at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Update on the Calvary Knots

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first thing I would say is that the name on the card does not match those on the monument. The second would be to ask you to read through this posting- Tales of Calvary 4- Triskadekaphobic Paranoia from November of 2009 which describes this odd arrangement in some detail. In the comments thread at that post, please take note of a former Calvary employee’s possible explanation of what is going on here. Third, here’s the latest addition to the knots, a mass card which has appeared just at the outset of spring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the intervening brutalities of a New York winter, the knotted cords and stick persisted in their intended places, as evinced above. Realize, of course, that the equinoxes mark special dates on the magickal calendar and cultic activity is ripe at the quarters of the solar and lunar cycle- both Passover and Easter fall near the equinox, for example. At these times of year, if you seek- ye shall find.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not certain, however, what significance a mass card carries. Not being an adherent of the Roman Catholic religion, I’ve nevertheless purchased them when friends and associates have suffered a loss, and offered them up to grieving families. My assumption has always been that they represent some sort special devotion or ceremony which will be performed by the priestly caste, but I remain ignorant of their purpose. As mentioned above, however, the names on the monument do not match the one on the mass card.

I’m keeping an eye on this “tree fed by a morbid nutrition” here at the ossified heart of the Newtown Pentacle in Calvary Cemetery.

And don’t miss tomorrow’s post, which discusses additional weirdness found at St. Michael’s Cemetery just this past weekend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 6, 2010 at 2:30 am

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