Saint Hyacinth Cemetery
Location: On the east end of Lake Erie; Town of Dunkirk; Chautauqua County; New York.
GPS Coordinates: Entrance: N 42.50247 / W 79.29976
Directions: From Main St in Dunkirk, head east on Hwy 5 about 3.5 miles. The cemetery will be on your left. Use Google Maps.
Parking: Roadside parking within the cemetery.
Information / Accessibility / Accommodations
Seasons/Hours: Open year-round; Daylight hours.
Best time to visit: Year-round
Time: A few minutes to admire this beautiful lakeside cemetery.
Handicap accessibility: The cemetery road is accessible.
Pets: Not allowed.
Swimming: Plenty of people swimming with the fishes, but you can’t.
Boat launch: The nearest launch is west of here at the Dunkirk city pier.
Accommodations: There are only views of the lake.
When I started logging parks and beaches in New York, I never anticipated adding cemeteries to the list. With the success of Kelly’s and my Mt Hope Cemetery galleries as a part of the Great Places to Photograph in Upstate NY series, I decided to check out this lakeside graveyard just outside of Dunkirk. While it lacks the enchanting landscape and rich history of the former, I found it to be a wonderfully beautiful location, with a wide-open design, and beautiful Lake Erie as a backdrop.
The cemetery road starts out on Hwy 5 and heads north past the old chapel and a Veterans’ Memorial. Halfway to the lake begins the burials, laid out in a well-organized grid. From any location within the 15-acre cemetery, the lake is visible beyond a sparse layer of trees. It’s a nice secluded scenic spot to check out if you are interested in local history and interested in cemeteries. As far as lake access, there’s none. You can see the lake, and it really does amplify the beauty of the setting, but if you are looking to get close, head further west to the beaches of Dunkirk.
Construction of the Erie Railroad brought many Polish immigrants to Dunkirk in the late 1800s. By 1875, eighty-five Polish-Catholic families lived in and around the Dunkirk area and they established St. Hyacinth’s Roman Catholic Church later that year.
In 1902, Father Bartholomew Swinko purchased 15 acres of land on Lake Road outside of the city limits. There the cemetery and framed chapel were established. The former chapel is now a caretaker’s office.
Hiking / Walking Trails
Distance: Walking a loop around the cemetery is about a mile.
Description: You can’t get lost here since it’s a wide-open cemetery with a looping road. Be sure to check out and pay respects at the Veterans’ Memorial to the right of the entrance. The southwest quadrant is home to some interesting statues. In the back, near the lake, is a section for interred infants. This land is owned by the Blessed Mary Angela Parish, so be respectful.
Map: Check out the interactive map.
St Hyacinth Cemetery Interactive Map
Blessed Mary Angela Parish
The owners of this cemetery are just west of here on this road. While founded in 1875, the current church was constructed in 1961.
- Books can be written about photographing various cemeteries. It’s a great practice of mixing still life and nature. One of the easiest tips I can offer is to try to capture a cemetery scene as a landscape, with a particular and interesting gravestone in the foreground, more of the cemetery in the midground, and the trees and Lake Erie in the background.