Landmarks Votes to Calendar Frederick Douglass Memorial Park in Staten Island

Frederick Douglass Memorial Park. Image Credit: LPC.

On March 19, 2024, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to calendar the Frederick Douglass Memorial Park cemetery, located at 3201 Amboy Road in the Oakland Heights neighborhood of Staten Island.

The memorial park was founded by Rodney Dade in 1933. Dade, a Harlem funeral director, saw the need for appropriate burial sites for African Americans due to ongoing racism and segregation that denied dignity and recognition to the city’s Black population even in death. At the time, many cemeteries would have separate side entrances and less desired sections of the cemetery based on race. 

Dade partnered with Benjamin Diamond, a businessman, and Frederick A. Bunn, an attorney. They commissioned J. Wallace Higgins, a civil engineer and landscape architect from New Jersey to design the memorial park. 

The memorial park is 14.88 acres and follows 20th century models which focused on landscaping and nature. The park includes curving pathways, flat monuments, watering and drainage systems. The park’s original design included a spot for a future memorial for abolitionist, writer and activist Frederick Douglass. 

The park opened for its first burials on June 10, 1935. The monument to Frederick Douglass was dedicated in 1961 and includes a low-relief sculpture on the monument on Amboy Road designed by English sculptor Angus McDougall. The cemetery office building on the north side of the park is associated with Staten Island architect James Whitford, and the building was enlarged in 1961. The park’s front gates were replaced in 2018. 

Hundreds of people have been buried at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park including jazz and blues singer Mamie Smith in 1946; jazz trumpeter Tommy Ladnier in 1939; and professional baseball player Sol White in 1955. The memorial park is still an active cemetery today. 

Landmarks voted to calendar the Frederick Douglass Memorial Park for future designation. A public hearing will be held at a later date.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the Editor of CityLand and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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