Did you know that, before there were city parks in Troy, residents would take strolls and picnic in cemeteries like Oakwood?
Well, what is old is new again. The 280 acre cemetery located in the northeast section of the Collar City is becoming a popular place for reflecting on the city’s past while walking on the roads and trails that can be appreciated during any season.
What to Expect at the Oakwood Cemetery
Troy’s 280-acre Oakwood Cemetery, located in the northeast section of the city, was established in the mid-19th century. When you drive — or bicycle — into the cemetery from Oakwood Avenue, take time to appreciate the New York State blue historic marker. This sign recognizes the cemetery as the burial place of Samuel Wilson, who was also known as Uncle Sam. You’ll then go past the brick building that serves as cemetery administrator’s residence. The massive and beautiful Gardner Earl Memorial Chapel and Crematorium will be directly ahead of you.
To explore this front section of the cemetery, you can park towards the left near the chapel, a granite and stone edifice complete with a unique and lone gargoyle. Or go past the crematorium a bit and park in the semi-circle to the right near the flag. You can also follow the well-maintained roads to maybe lesser-traveled areas of the cemetery. In this choose-your-own-adventure decision, there are no wrong answers. You’re in for a treat no matter where you decide to go in Oakwood. There are maps for the property at the door of the crematorium and at the cemetery offices at 50 101st St.
A Good Route to Follow
There are nearly 12 miles of roadways at the cemetery. Here’s a good walking route I’d recommend: Park at the crematorium and appreciate the Romanesque architecture of the structure, built in 1898. There’s a pretty cool bell tower, and going up the steps you see a nice view behind the building. Walk past the crematorium, bear left and go up a small hill into what is known as “Millionaires Row.” This is where the likes of women’s rights activist Emma Willard and financier / philanthropist Russell Sage are buried. (Russell Sage, by the way, is ranked among the top 30 all-time richest Americans.) Continue on and you’ll dip down a slight hill and eventually see signs for Uncle Sam’s grave site. Then continue past the grave site, on your left, until you see a clearing that will lead to the overlook.
The overlook, complete with interpretive signage, is a nice place to get your bearings on the area below. From here, you can either follow a bridge to do a nature trail or you can continue to bear straight and head towards a pond on your right. You’ll see a nice waterfall on the left. You can either go up a hill for a work out or loop around the pond. If you loop around the pond, you’ll continue straight towards the front of the cemetery again. Before you get back to where you started, try to spot familiar names that you might recognize from buildings in downtown Troy like the Frear, Cannon, and Cluett.
Hiking through History and Nature
From the moment you arrive at this cemetery, you feel immersed in the rich history and architecture of the region. Troy’s Oakwood Cemetery is the final resting place for soldiers from conflicts ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War. The cemetery has five ponds, some man-made and some natural, along with multiple waterfalls. There is also a wonderful 100-mile-panorama overlook of the Hudson Valley and you can even see as far as the Cohoes Falls.
You also could see a myriad of animals at the cemetery including bald eagles, deer, fox, rabbit, red-tailed hawks, geese, blue herons, and turtles. On a warm, sunny day in the summer, the turtles especially love the logs in the cemetery’s big pond, and the snapping turtles can be seen in the pond near the bell at the front of the cemetery. Domesticated animals — like man’s best friend — are allowed in the cemetery but must remain on a leash. Just make sure to bring good hiking shoes as the trails can be steep, slick and muddy! Also remember, as with most any hike, if you carry it in, carry it out.
Each season has something beautiful to offer. There are hundreds of naturalized daffodils in the spring. Magnolias bloom, along with the lush and unique flora of summer. Fall has they vibrant foliage. And winter brings wonderland conditions with frozen waterfalls and snow-capped trees.
Events and Tours
Join for a tour or event at the cemetery if for no other reason than to see inside the chapel, which is usually locked. Tiffany stained glass windows adorn the interior, along with beautiful wood and stonework. Tours usually have themes around the Civil War, Industrialists, seeing the Millionaires Row and mausoleums. One popular activity the cemetery organizes is a scavenger hunt geared towards adults. You can check their calendar for information about upcoming tours. You can also call the cemetery office at 518.272.7520 to find out if a tour is available.
While You’re in North Troy
After a couple hours of exploring the natural wonders and history of Troy’s Oakwood Cemetery you’ll be hungry! Grab food to-go from My Dacha, a Slovenian and European (not to mention delicious) restaurant about four miles away. If you time things just right, you can pick up dessert across the street at Cookie Therapy ALB. Cookie Therapy is known for their indulgently-thick cookies and outrageously-creative brownies. Dessert flavor options in the past have included PBJ, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Not Your Momma’s Chocolate Chip. Order their delectable sweets in advance, sometimes a week ahead, but they are well worth the planning.
Check out this virtual tour of Oakwood Cemetery by Hudson Virtual Tours below!
Written by: Danielle Sanzone
Danielle Sanzone is a freelance writer who worked for a decade at The Record in Troy and is currently in the Digital Initiatives department at the local PBS, WMHT.