A project to restore Townsend Cemetery in East Hills, which has a history dating to the late 1700s, is expected to begin in the spring after officials received a grant to help with restoration efforts.
The Roslyn Landmark Society was awarded a $10,000 grant from Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, an East Hampton-based nonprofit whose mission is to support the study of Long Island history and its role in the American experience. The landmark society, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and historic resources of Roslyn, in conjunction with the Town of North Hempstead, has been working to bring the abandoned cemetery back to life. The grant, officials said, will go toward surveying and recording the cemetery to provide recommendations for its conservation treatment and restoration.
"Cemeteries are a reflection on the community," said Howard Kroplick, co-president of the Roslyn Landmark Society. "I give a lot of credit to the Gardiner foundation for providing these kinds of grants because many times these historic cemeteries get forgotten and abandoned."
Kroplick, an East Hills resident, began working on the cemetery in 2012 during his time as North Hempstead town historian. He said when they discovered the abandoned cemetery several years ago the area was in poor condition. The town, along with community members, have worked to clean the area. North Hempstead recently conducted an extensive cleaning of the site, including the removal of trees and bushes from the cemetery's entrance.
Officials said Burying Ground Preservation Group Inc. in collaboration with Steward Preservation Services have prepared a comprehensive plan for the restoration.
The site, which sits just south of Northern Boulevard in East Hills, is the burying ground for 33 of the English Quaker settlers including five families; Townsend, Willis, Horsfield, Jackson and Boerem, according to the landmark society. The earliest interment was Nov. 24, 1790; the last burial recorded was of Ethalinda Jackson on Nov. 12, 1894. The Townsends, one of the founding families of Oyster Bay, were prominent on Long Island in the 18th century.
Jennifer Lister, director of the Roslyn Landmark Society, said once the cemetery is restored, she hopes it can serve as an educational tool to residents.
"I think it would be good to possibly make it an educational project as well. If you have school visits explaining the history of the families that are there and the history of Long Island and what these descendants did," Lister said. "I think it has a rich history that shouldn’t be ignored."