old St. Mary's Cemetery was located on Washington Avenue
in Albany. Very little is known about this old cemetery
but obviously it was run by St. Mary's Catholic Church in
downtown Albany. The original St. Mary's Church was built
in 1797 and that Parish is the second oldest Parish in New
York State. So it is safe to assume that burials in this
long closed cemetery would date to about the time of the
founding of St. Mary's Parish.
The disinterment from St. Mary's Cemetery began around 1875
and the removal work was not finished until 1917. The closing
of this cemetery coincided with the closing of many other
family and church cemeteries in the Albany city limits.
Some of the factors contributing to the closing of these
small local cemeteries were:
The urbanization of the city which made the land too valuable
to put the dead in.
2. Concern about health issues. When people were embalmed
originally, the morticians used arsenic and there was a
feeling that the toxic arsenic substance would bleed into
the water supply. The practice of using arsenic for embalming
was banned in 1911.
About the same time there was the new trend in making cemetery’s
park like. Cities saw the rise of the landscaped cemeteries
located outside of urban areas. This was known as the Rural
Cemetery Movement which presented an idealized view of nature.
These new parks usually included rolling lawns, a water
source such as a lake or pond, groves of trees, and recreations
of picturesque architecture. All of it designed to recreate
a peaceful, pastoral scene of beauty. Before the development
of parks, the public was encouraged to visit and enjoy nature,
art, and contemplation, and use the cemetery for outings
such as picnics, carriage rides, or an afternoon stroll.