Mount Moor Cemetery: a historic African-American graveyard hidden in the parking lot of one of America’s largest malls~
The huge Palisades Mall is among the largest “mega malls” in the United States. The vast concrete complex was opened in 1998, and even though it was described by the New York Times as a, “series of interlocking coffins…lacking any discernible architectural theme,” the mall become so popular and appreciated that it put the old Nanuet Mall out of business: it was recently bulldozed.
Before its construction, there was an old bowling alley, an auto dealership, a Burger King and a diner that were displaced by the mall. The area flooded constantly and probably the owners were more than happy to get a buyout so they could permanently vacate the area and escape the constant menace of flooding. Even before, the land upon which the mall was built had toxic waste buried in it from an old airport from the 1920s and from a printing plant that closed in the 1960s. And, in addiction, there’s still today a small, historic cemetery lying largely unnoticed in the parking lot!
Around 20 million shoppers come to the Palisades Mall every year, most of whom probably have no idea they’re passing by Mount Moor Cemetery, an African-American graveyard listed on the National Register for Historic Places that lies quiet in the shadow of the Target parking lot and a Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The cemetery was founded in July, 1849, as a “burying ground for colored people”, and the sloping hill is the final resting place for around 90 African Americans, including veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars and the Korean War.
When Syracuse-based Pyramid Companies announced its intention to build one of the largest malls in America, it found the small, historic cemetery right in the middle of their plans. Someone made an offer to have the graves disinterred and relocated to another cemetery but it was rejected by the Mount Moor Cemetery Association, who work doggedly to preserve and take care of the historic site.
So, the property developers were forced to build their colossus around the tiny cemetery, which today can still be found on the sloping ground overlooking the car park, cared for diligently by members of the association and the descendants of people buried there. However, it seems that the care of the cemetery was part of the original plan and design from the very beginning, because It is in the best condition it has ever been in. According to some witnesses, prior to the mall, it was an overgrown and neglected space, an eyesore everyone could see from Route 59.
One particular grave belongs to Lafayette Logan, who fought in the Civil War with the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first African-American regiment mustered by the North. Logan served the United States at a time when he was denied freedom because of his race and others buried at Mount Moor fought for their country, though many were denied equal rights under the law during their times. Logan was born in 1832 and died in Nyack on Jan. 22, 1881, at age 49.
Immortalized in the 1989 Academy award winning film Glory, he perhaps would deserve more a dignified final resting place than in the shadow of a giant Bed Bath & Beyond!
Images from web – Google Research