In Search of Ichabod Crane

At the corner of Richmond Ave and Amsterdam Place on Staten Island…

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…is a decaying graveyard known as New Springville Cemetery:

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The deteriorating fence alone gives a pretty good indication of what awaits inside:

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The first section of the cemetery is in decent shape…

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As you make your way back, however, you soon come across dozens of broken graves…

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…many barely visible in the overgrowth:

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The weeds in this private fenced-in plot have grown so thick…

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…it’s impossible to tell if any graves remain.

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In fact, the rear of the cemetery is so overgrown, it’s unclear where it even ends:

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In a way, the abandoned and foreboding atmosphere of the graveyard feels almost appropriate…

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…for the final resting place of Ichabod Crane:

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, written by Washington Irving, is one of my favorite short stories. If you haven’t read it in a while, do yourself a favor and check it out here for free. Irving’s prose is beautifully, hauntingly, descriptive of a New York that no longer is, perhaps never was – and I love reading it every year when the air gets crisp and the leaves change color.

In the story, Sleepy Hollow’s new school teacher, Ichabod Crane, is described as follows:

“The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock, perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew.”

This is what the real Ichabod Crane looked like:


In fact, Colonel Ichabod Crane was not a small town school teacher, but a respected military officer with career spanning 48 years. Washington Irving met Crane  in 1814 in Sackets Harbor, New York, and later used his name for his Sleepy Hollow pedagogue. Though it earned him an immortal place in American culture, the real Crane detested Irving for it.

Crane died in 1857 and was buried near his home at the New Springville Cemetery. In 1986, New York Magazine visited his grave site and found it in significant disrepair, with graffiti on the stone and its four foot obelisk cracked in two on the ground.

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By 2000, the grave had been restored. While the middle portion seems to be brand new…

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…the base and original obelisk are original:

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Also buried here is Crane’s wife Charlotte…

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…brother William…

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…and, oddly, a Native American who served as his personal valet.

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Crane lived nearby the cemetery at 3525 Victory Boulevard in the house pictured below.

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At the time of the New York Magazine article, the house was described as “just barely” standing, abandoned and in desperate need of repairs. Nothing remains today (though they did name this ugly little parking lot Crane Street):

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If you happen to pass by New Springville Cemetery, it’s definitely worth exploring, if only to visit the grave of the namesake of our favorite Sleepy Hollow pedagogue.

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Just watch out for the sound of a horse approaching…

-SCOUT

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16 comments

  1. Ok – that was very interesting! Since I live out on Staten Island and have passed that location several times – I will have to check it out.

  2. Very cool and interesting…I love the story to and never knew anything about the real IC or his final resting place.

  3. Scout, That has to be the coolest damn cemetery I’ve ever seen. I love cemeteries, although I admit I don’t think I could do them after dark without some company. LOL I sure hope someone in the industry uses this site for a location. It’s awesome.

    If you’re ever in Richmond, be sure to check out Hollywood Cemetery here. We got several presidents buried here, an unusual dog guarding a child’s grave, the unknown Confederate soldiers pyramid and several other really interesting graves. I took my youngest there this summer to do gravestone rubbings. When we drove in her eyebrows arched with this “Really? Really, Mom?” But by the time we left she admitted that it was a pretty cool afternoon. Nothing like bonding with your child over dead bodies. ROFL

  4. Scout,

    Thank you so much for taking us to this cemetery. I am a lifelong fan of Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York, every time I visit NYC. The cemetery caretaker, Bill Lent, loves to hear stories of people’s visits to see the grave of Ichabod Crane’s namesake. He has never made the trip to see Crane’s grave due to his illnesses and the fact his job keeps him very busy; I’m sure, would be beside himself to see the sad state of New Springville Cemetery. If you go to the SHC, Bill will regale you with the history of the real residents of Sleepy Hollow and those Irving immortalized in his stories. He will also show you the notable headstones, and the unmarked grave of the Hessian soldier who became the inspiration for the Headless Horseman. I have not visited Bill in two years, and hope to see him this winter. I hope I can find him so that I may show him your blog. It might be the closest he ever gets to seeing Crane’s grave.

  5. What a wonderful progression of photos… you really know how to tell a story and draw people in. Thank you for what you do!

  6. Thanks too much for your incredible posts. I follow you on FB and am always happy with your posts and photos. I love and appreciate the old and vintage of just about everything (so much pride and craftmanship and an eye for simple beauty). Keep up the great work and I know your film career will flourish…the talent is there.

  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Dutch_Church_of_Sleepy_Hollow

    This is where you’ll hear the horse…the Church, Bridge, and Cemetery from the story are all still here.

  8. The church and bridge are located near Tarrytown. There’s an actual town called Sleepy Hollow. Irving’s house is there, too. Cool, cool place.

  9. Interesting pictures, saw another picture of Icabod Crane’s headstone with graffiti on it. Not really sure why someone would do this?

  10. Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  11. I have observed that in the world these days, video games are definitely the latest craze with children of all ages. Many times it may be extremely hard to drag your children away from the activities. If you want the very best of both worlds, there are numerous educational gaming activities for kids. Great post.

  12. Just found out family members are buried there so I feel a strong need to visit.

  13. I might also relate to this weblog publish. Your website is really a superb supply of details which I find for being really practical. Thank you for your thoughts and make sure you go on to post even more top quality content articles. I’ve bookmarked your site and can examine back again often.

  14. Together with almost everything that appears to be building throughout this specific area, your perspectives happen to be quite exciting. Having said that, I appologize, but I can not subscribe to your whole plan, all be it radical none the less. It appears to me that your remarks are actually not completely rationalized and in reality you are yourself not wholly certain of the point. In any case I did appreciate reading through it.

  15. What a lovely day for a 906448! SCK was here

  16. Omg, appreciate!!! The interaction among the 2 is incredible. So are your photographs

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