Sunday, November 8, 2015

Friends of the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery

We, the Friends of the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery, are a grassroots volunteer group who notice that this cemetery is in need of help. It is long falling into disrepair. Numerous gravestones are toppled, some crooked, and many un-level. The surrounding wooded area is encroaching into the cemetery and is beginning to conceal the grave sites of those individuals and families who are buried in their plots around the perimeter. Many of these obstructed grave sites are those of veterans including numerous soldiers whom fought in the Civil War.

The cemetery is located in the city of Albany on Krumkill Road at the bend in the road. It is easily accessible from New Scotland Avenue or from the Krumkill Road exit off Rt 85. It is our belief that this is the oldest cemetery within city limits. Albany has three cemeteries within its boundaries. The Evangelical Protestant Cemetery which was established in 1854. St. Paul's Lutheran Church operates Eagle Hill Cemetery on upper Western Avenue was consecrated in 1859. And Graceland Cemetery on Delaware Avenue opened in 1902.

Unfortunately the cemetery's parent church is long closed. Both the church and its cemetery are for sale. The governing body that has control of both properties is the United Church of Christ or UCC. Its main offices are located out of this area. The church building, located in the South End of Albany on the corner of Alexander and Clinton Streets, is in need of desperate repairs to stabilize and bring back the building to its former glory. The cost for this work will be very high making the building a hard sell. The UCC was contacted in September regarding a restoration project. They have neither authorized nor rejected plans for volunteers to do this work. The UCC wants these properties out from under its charge.

Restoring the cemetery will not be exorbitant. Costs will be involved but the main dilemma will be time and effort to complete this task. We plan on handling the costs of restoration on our own. We will not actively solicit for funds but will sincerely accept any donations for this worthy cause. What we will seek are other like-minded individuals who wish to adopt the cemetery with us so that we can create a team for this project. We all know that many hands create less work.

After the cemetery is properly restored to the best of our abilities, it is not our intent to take over the regular maintenance for it. Following the restoration of the grounds and gravestones, this will enable a caretaker to more carefully and more easily maintain the cemetery without further damage to monuments and lawn equipment. Also, with the cemetery restored, it will be less inviting to vandals.

Gravestones are markers and reminders of our ancestors and loved ones. It is the last long-term link for a person. Even the deceased matter. Especially for those long gone veterans from past wars. Many of them sacrificed their lives for our freedom. They should be respected.

A question was posed as to who has the knowledge and capability to restore the gravestones?
- Two of the "Friends" have taken seminars with a professional gravestone conservator and have rehabbed numerous gravestones in other cemeteries.

Preliminary outline of work to be completed:
  • Cemetery perimeter to be cleared of encroaching brush, saplings, and low hanging branches and placed in designated areas for later removal. Volunteers can bring their own yard tools.
  • Breaking the cemetery into sections; inventory all gravestones that need attention such as those that have fallen, are un-level, and are broken.
  • Clean with D2 Biological Solution only the gravestones that will require repair such as epoxing and re-mortaring.
  • As the above work is in progress, photograph each stone before and after work, and transcribe each stone for later inclusion on the Internet.
  • Realize that this will be an on-going project which will not be completed in a few weeks and that every gravestone will not be able to be restored due to its condition and its size.
Example of a broken gravestone needing attention

Example of gravestones that are being overtaken by brush

Costs that will be incurred after cemetery perimeter cleared of brush:
  • Time and labor
  • Materials for gravestone restoration will include
  • Stone dust for leveling gravestones
  • D2 Biological Solution for cleaning stones
  • Lithomex for re-mortaring marble stones
  • Stainless steel rods for re-pinning gravestones
  • Buckets/pails & soft bristle brushes

Arial view of Evangelical Protestant Cemetery