is a Philadelphia
Historic Commission Landmark
Trusted to the Community of Kensington In 1765
By the family
of Anthony Palmer,The Founder of Kensington
and Palmer Streets
someone asked me why the cemetery needs funding now, when it never needed funding or donations in the past? The question came
about when I was asking someone to buy a ticket to the upcoming comedy night fundraiser on January 10th, 2015. The person
said that in all of the years that they lived in Fishtown, no one had ever asked them for a donation, and they never remember
there ever being a "beef and beer" held to raise money for the care of the cemetery. This question leads me to believe
that some people think that the cemetery receives some sort of public funding or has some type of "financial trust"
that we draw from when we need to pay the bills. For the record, we get no support from the city and there is no trust
that can be tapped when we need money to care for the cemetery. The people who were in charge prior to March, 2011
kept very poor financial records, so I cannot tell you what donations were made, or who made them. I can tell you that there
was a small bank account with some money when the new trustees took over, but not enough to do the work that was needed. Two
generous grants from the Penn Treaty Special Services District (on behalf of Sugarhouse Casino) enabled us to install
new pavements on Palmer Street and Belgrade Street, and we were able to restore the interior of the Bier House office. Money
from the grants was also used to maintain the grounds for the last 4 years. For example, the grass cutting at the
cemetery has averaged about $13,000 per year over the last few years, and recent tree trimming totaled $27,400.00 in the spring
of 2014. (While volunteers do a good deal of the cleaning inside and around the cemetery, contractors are necessary for grass
cutting, since we cannot insure volunteers safety when using equipment at the cemetery. Also, cutting the grass in any cemetery
is challenging, but even more so in Palmer.)
cemetery was given to the neighborhood as a free burial ground for the people who live here. At
one time, there were several houses that sat on the cemetery property and the rents from these houses helped support the cemetery.
There has always been a small fee or donation made by the family of someone who was being buried here, and this money paid
the grave digger for opening the ground for the burial. As everyone knows, there are no longer houses on the cemetery
property, they were taken down long ago and the ground they sat on was used for burials. Of course there are still fee's for
opening the ground, but there are so few burials at Palmer that we cannot count on burials to support the upkeep of the cemetery.
While we do allow burials in a family occupied grave, most burials today are cremation remains. Casket burials are rare, and
only in graves that have room to fit a casket. Most casket burials in the recent past were shallow burials, with no room
left for another casket. And most of the "new graves" dug prior to 2011 were basically burials in space
that was used a long time ago for burial. This practice was stopped in 2011 to preserve the older graves in the cemetery.
It is a difficult job to tell someone that we cannot bury their loved one at Palmer, and I have had to do that a lot over
the last few years.
So, the answer to the question "why
does Palmer Cemetery need financial support" is simple. It is the community's responsibility
to preserve it's history. Unfortuantely, no one ever set aside a "perpetual care fund" since it is a "free
burial ground". When the ground was given to the community, it was a gift to be cared for by the community. And for the
last 250+ years it has been maintained and cared for by people from the community. The trustees are volunteers and have
given a great deal of time and energy to take care of the cemetery. While the Penn Treaty Special Services Group has been
very helpful, we cannot rely on them as our sole support. They help fund so much in our neighborhood, and the PTSSD funds
are not infinite.
1960's, the cemetery was neglected and became an overgrown wasteland, until some local neighbors got together and decided
they had enough of the trash and weeds inside and outside of the cemetery. When these people took over the care of the cemetery,
they saved the cemetery from becoming another playground or parking lot. There was no money in the bank. They used their own
money and equipment to improve the grounds. They volunteered and did what they had to do. During that time, there was a push
for community funding and support. Politicians were contacted and may have helped some, but for the most part, the people
of the neighborhood made the effort to keep the cemetery in one piece. The trustees today are doing the same things and asking
for the same help. We are volunteer trustees. We make the decisions that need to be made, as it was spelled out in 1765. Without
the support of the people of Fistown and those who have loved ones buried here, we will not be able to maintain the cemetery
the way it deserves. The history of our community rests inside the fences of Palmer Cemetery. Please help support and
preserve that history.
Thanks to All!
A great big Thank You to all who made
the Comedy/Music fundraiser for Palmer Cemetery a GREAT SUCCESS! To all of the people who came out to see the entertainment
on a cold night, it was greatly appreciated. Every dollar raised will be used to keep this historic burial ground in good
shape. The volunteer trustees work hard to ensure that the history of our neighborhood is preserved, and without the
support of the people of Fishtown, we could not do what we do.
Thank you to the hosts for the night...Nancy Bartelle and John Lonergan. Both worked hard to get the entertainment,
the food and beer and to set up for the event. Nancy rounded up her crew to go out to canvass
the neighborhood for donations and to sell tickets. This truly was a team effort.
Thank you to all who donated...State Farm Insurance (Vince
Ovecka), Farmers Insurance (Mike Primavera), Burns Funeral Home, McElvarr Funeral Home, Home Depot (Anthony Lemma), Les and
Doreens Happy Tap, Starboardside Tavern, The Good Times Tavern, Anthonys Cafe, Philadelphia Beer on York Street, Teamsters
Local 929 (Rocky and John Bryan) and to those who donated a basket for the drawings....Thank You! I am sure I missed
the names of many...and I will update this list as I learn who they are...Please remember to patronize those who support
Thanks to everyone who attended,
made a small donation or just passed the word about the comedy night. A great neighborhood is made up of great people...and
we have some great people in Fishtown! New Fishtowner's and Old timer's enjoyed the night side by side...And a good time was
had by all. Thank You again!
The Trustees of
Please Do Not bring your dog into the cemetery. Please be considerate and pick up after
your dog if you walk it around the cemetery. Thanks!
Palmer Cemetery is NOT a Perpetual Care Cemetery. We do our best to maintain the grounds with the financial donations
we receive, but a good deal of the work has to be done by volunteers to save money. We will do our best to straighten
and reset headstones, but it is the responsibility of the family to maintain the grave site. We realize that most of oldest
families have moved away and may not even know they have family buried here, so we do our best to straighten or lift a stone.
Some of the larger stones need a small crane to lift, and a new foundation to set the stone on. The stones are sinking or
falling mainly due to weather conditions (rain, snow and freezing temps ). We can only do so much and need help.
Small donation from the community will go along way in getting things done here. Please consider making a financial donation
to help us maintain our historic cemetery.