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Backstory and Context
The largest sectarian burial ground in Westchester County, Gate of Heaven Cemetery was founded by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York to be a place of burial for its faithful. While many Roman Catholic parishes had their own churchyards and burial grounds, the Archdiocese of New York had but one cemetery, Calvary Cemetery, which was filling rapidly by the beginning of the 20th century. To secure more burial space, the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral acquired an undeveloped portion of Kensico Cemetery in the Town of Mount Pleasant on the north side on Minnetonka Brook. Two years later the trustees purchased Fairlawn Cemetery, a 100-acre non-sectarian burial ground that had been founded in 1900 but did not have a large number of burials. The location of Fairlawn Cemetery was particularly appealing as it was located along the New York & Harlem Railroad and had its own train station.
The work in laying out Gate of Heaven Cemetery was overseen by landscape architect and engineer Charles Wellford Leavitt (1871-1928). Leavitt designed a number of public places including Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and the campus of the University of Georgia, and produced urban plans for Garden City, New York, Long Beach, New York, and West Palm Beach, Florida. The Trustees of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral worked with neighboring Kensico Cemetery to move the plots of non-Catholics from Fairlawn Cemetery. Gate of Heaven Cemetery was dedicated by John Cardinal Farley on July 14, 1918.
Gate of Heaven Cemetery contains two large community mausoleums. Saint Francis of Assisi Chapel and Garden Mausoleum, which was opened in 1969, consists of a central chapel that connects to eight separate mausoleum structures. The first section of Our Lady Queen of Peace mausoleum complex opened in 1984, while the third portion of this mausoleum complex opened in 2004.
Gate of Heaven Cemetery is the final resting place of a number of notable individuals:
-Actors James Cagney and Sal Mineo.
-Actress Anna Held.
-Author Mary Higgins Clark.
-Journalists Heywood Broun and Dorothy Kilgallen.
-Baseball Hall of Famer Babe Ruth and baseball stars Ralph Branca and Billy Martin.
-Football Hall of Famers Tim and Wellington Mara.
-Industrialist Charles M. Schwab.
-Inventor Robert Abplanalp.
-Labor Leader Michael J. Quill.
-New York City mayors James J. Walker, Joseph V. McKee and John P. O’Brien.
Gate of Heaven remains an active cemetery today, and remains a favored final resting place for Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese of New York. Visitors to the cemetery may opt to take the Harlem Line of Metro-North Railroad to the Mount Pleasant station, which is located near the cemetery office. Trains stop at the platform twice each weekday and six times each day on Saturday and Sunday.
Gate of Heaven Cemetery. Accessed May 11th 2020. https://gateofheavenny.com/.
Raftery, Patrick. The Cemeteries of Westchester County.. Elmsford, NY. Westchester County Historical Society, 2011.
“Westchester Tract Bought For New Catholic Cemetery.” New York Herald, June 3, 1917.
Westchester County Historical Society.