New Jersey’s cities have some spectacular destinations, from the Newark Museum and planetarium to Adventure Aquarium in Camden. However, one of New Jersey’s most unique urban attractions may actually be… a cemetery. Those in the know hang here, but everyone should have the chance to check it out.
Welcome To Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery
This historic cemetery was once abandoned but now thrives; in fact, it may be one of the liveliest locations in the state. So much more than a place to remember the past and pay respect to those buried here, Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery is a community staple. Free to visit, it is open 7 days a week from 8:30 a.m. until sundown. You can find it at 435 Newark Avenue in Jersey City. But why would you want to take a day trip to a graveyard? Read on...
The cemetery itself was established in 1829, though the history of the land dates back further. The site played host to several Revolutionary War skirmishes, including a battle led by General Marquis de Lafayette. During the war of 1812, the area was used as a lookout point and housed an ammunition bunker, which still stands.
When the cemetery was built, it was one of the first garden-style cemeteries in the U.S., influencing other cemeteries throughout the nation. A garden-style cemetery is thoughtfully planned out and landscaped to create a park-like setting. The cemetery is the final resting place of many Civil War soldiers and may have been part of the underground railroad. According to the cemetery's website, a series of tunnels may exist under the grounds. During WWI and WWII, the cemetery was used as a training ground for the U.S. Army and many military artifacts have been found here.
This unique cemetery was eventually neglected, and totally abandoned by 2008. That's when a very special group of volunteers stepped in. They've worked to preserve the history of the graveyard and maintain the grounds - with the help of goats.
Since 2011, goats have been brought in during warmer weather to help control invasive weeds. Visitors can interact with the goats and even bring quarters to buy feed. Give the goats a special treat from the feed machines, but no outside food is allowed.
The goats are great but the events are what really make this place a community hub. There's almost always something going on at the cemetery from "Garden Thyme" on Saturdays to live music, shows, tours and tributes. Upcoming events include an "Evening Of Vine Art" (painting and wine under the stars) on 9/23, "Goatstock" (music and art festival) on 10/9 and "Tales From The Crypts" (haunted Halloween tours, pumpkin patch) on 10/15, among others.
Jersey City And Harsimus Cove Cemetery is managed by a dedicated group of volunteers with big plans. They hope to secure state and national historic landmark status and make the site even more interesting with a memorial park, museum and visitor's center. To donate, volunteer, learn more or see other upcoming events, visit
Locals love this unique space, and it’s certainly a fantastic way to re-purpose an abandoned cemetery. Have you ever been? What are your favorite hidden hangouts and secret spots in New Jersey? For more local favorites, check out these
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