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Rich History

Established in 1875

Maple Grove Cemetery was established by a group of six Brooklyn businessmen in 1875 - late in the period of rural cemetery development. Until that time most rural cemeteries were created through the purchase of large tracts of land by private citizens.  However, under the leadership of William Cogswell, the six businessmen cleverly purchased 75 acres of undeveloped land in Jamaica and Newtown from Mary A. Webb, in exchange for one half the proceeds from the sale of burial lots. The benefit to the    

newly formed Maple Grove Cemetery Association was that it would not have to raise funds ahead of time to purchase the land.


The rural cemetery movement emerged in the United States during the 1830’s as urban areas grappled with the public health concerns related to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions. These challenges, combined with a sense of nostalgia for the quiet beauty of the countryside, led to the establishment of so-called garden, or rural, cemeteries outside the cities. Mt. Auburn Cemetery was the first such cemetery to be established (1831) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through the years it has stood as a model for the development of many cemeteries across the country. 

Maple Grove Cemetery was established in a densely forested section north of Richmond Hill in an area known as Haystown, named after Ambrose Hays who had a store on Metropolitan Avenue near 130th Street.  Mr. Noyes F. Palmer was hired to act as Superintendent and construction moved very rapidly. Resting on ridges of rocky hills, its location boasted one of the highest elevations in Queens. In fact, Maple Grove was said to have beautiful views of Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean - views which have since been obscured by the

area's commercial and residential development.  The pastoral landscape of Maple Grove Cemetery took many years to develop.  Winding roads were built, the lake was developed, and fences added. Three years after the founding of Maple Grove Cemetery, a new railroad station opened nearby.  As early as 1879, Maple Grove Cemetery issued 300 maps to encourage public use of the property. As railroad patronage increased, the Cemetery Association distributed railroad tickets to try to attract visitors to the park-like cemetery.

In 1876, the Maple Grove “Lodge “Building was constructed on Hoffman Boulevard (now Queens Boulevard) for use as the superintendent’s home and office, as well as a waiting room for visitors and funeral parties (many of which arrived by train). This historic building designed by James E. Ware (trustee) was the hub of Maple Grove's early activity.  Subsequently a Victorian-style Administration Building, also designed by James E. Ware, was built in 1880 at the western end (Lefferts Boulevard which was known as Lefferts Avenue; and Kew Gardens Road which was known as White Pot Road, then Newtown Road, finally Kew Gardens Road) of the cemetery and was used until the administrative offices were moved to The Center in 2009.

Although charming and historic, the James Ware building had become cramped, technology-challenged and was unable to support family comforts and needs. The construction of The Center marked a turning point in Maple Grove’s history and service to the community. Designed to meet the changes of the 21st Century and beyond, The Center forges a link between the cemetery (present, future and past) and the community.   Maple Grove-LEARN MORE

A Historic Community Landmark

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Maple Grove Cemetery has been honored by many fine families as the final resting place for their loved ones. 


The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation. Its goals are to help property owners and interest groups, such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, coordinate, identify, and protect historic sites in the United States. 


Maple Grove Cemetery features the fascinating stories of such noteworthy individuals as:

Lavern Baker, Singer in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Martin Branner, Cartoonist – “Winnie Winkle”
Meville Ellis, Pianist & Composer
Samuel Cisco, Desegregation advocate in Jamaica
Dr. Max Gerso, Pioneer in medical ecology
Alfred Grebe, Radio and broadcast pioneer
Josef and Rosina Lhevinne, Russian pianist
Samuel Loyd, America’s Puzzle King
Charles Manly, Aviation pioneer
Ludolf Portong, pioneer in cotton textiles
Elisabeth Riis, Wife of social reformer Jacob Riis
Jimmy Rushing, Blues singer 
John Sutphin, Queens politician and philanthropist
Millie Tunnell, Former 11-year old slave
Edouard Wah, Haitian artist
Ann Wilkins, One of the first female missionaries to Africa