Blazing Star Cemetery, aka Sleight Family Graveyard

Established 1740
Arthur Kill Road by Rossville Avenue, Rossville
NYC Individual Landmark

The Blazing Star Cemetery, also known as the Sleight Family Graveyard or Rossville Burial Ground, was one of the first homestead graveyards in Staten Island. The earliest grave markers, many of which are made of brownstone, date to around 1750. Members of prominent early Staten Island families are buried here, including that of Peter Winant (sometimes spelled Pieterse Wynant), who was born in Brooklyn in 1663 and died in Staten Island in 1758. His father, Peter Winant Sr., was one of a group of men who made the first permanent European settlement on Staten Island in 1661. Today, the cemetery has been restored and is maintained by FACSI. The cemetery’s peaceful location, adjacent to the Arthur Kill waterway, is described in the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) designation report for the property: “There is no railing enclosing the cemetery or any architecture to detract our attention from the silent mood that prevails over these grounds…Here amid the passing seasons a bit of history stands recorded.”

Adding to the site’s already evocative atmosphere is another graveyard of sorts within the waterway adjacent to and visible from the cemetery, the Arthur Kill “ship graveyard.” This was the former location of a mooring slip where the Blazing Star Ferry ran between Staten Island and New Jersey. Beginning in the 1930s, the Witte Marine Equipment Company operated a ship salvage and resale business on the Rossville shoreline, where an unknown number of historic ships was left to decompose. There are various theories as to why so much equipment has not been dismantled or scrapped. Whether it is due to an overflow of ships coming in or whether the company’s owner, John J. Witte, intended to leave them as a historical record, today this tableau of marine ruins is much appreciated by artists, photographers and history buffs. The site is today run by the Donjon Marine Company (the successor to the Witte Marine Company), which discourages visitation for safety reasons, making the view from Blazing Star all the more special.