Rural Cemetery Act

Rural Cemetery Act

Rural Cemetery Act

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The Rural Cemetery Act was a law passed by the New York Legislature on April 27, 1847, that authorized commercial burial grounds in rural New York state. The law led to burial of human remains becoming a commercial business for the first time, replacing the traditional practice of burying the dead in churchyards and on private farmland. One effect of the law was the development of a large concentration of cemeteries along the border between the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn.

The law's enactment came during an era when a burgeoning urban population was crowding out Manhattan churchyards traditionally used for burialsRhona Amon, , Newsday website, accessed February 16, 2009 and the concept of the rural cemetery on the outskirts of a city was becoming stylish.

Provisions and effects of the law

The law authorized nonprofit entities to establish cemeteries on rural land and sell burial plots, and it exempted from property taxation land that was so used., The New York Times, February 18, 1917 A few rural cemeteries had been established in New York before the new law was passed (including Green-Wood Cemetery in 1838 and Albany Rural Cemetery in 1844), but the law's passage soon led to the establishment of more new cemeteries near Manhattan, particularly in western Queens. Both churches and land speculators responded to the new law by purchasing rural land for cemeteries. The move to rural...
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