a funerary monument set against a backdrop of pennies

Project Penny Heaven for Friends of York City Cemetery

a funerary monument set against a backdrop of pennies

Preservation Pennsylvania acts as an advisor and fiscal manager for Project Penny Heaven.

Project Penny Heaven


March 9, 2024 at 10:00 am
Located along Schley Alley and West 7th Street in North York

Please join us to celebrate the unveiling ceremony for Penny Heaven’s permanent monument. We couldn’t have raised the money without your support. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your generosity. After centuries of waiting, the people in potter’s field will be remembered at last. Yay! We did it!

Donate to our Care & Caring Fund

We’ve launched a stretch goal to establish a maintenance fund for the memorial and to add some greenery. We welcome your donation of any size. (Donations are 100% tax deductible.)

Thank you for your support.

Project Penny Heaven… is… a… GO! We raised the $20k necessary to install the monument! Now, those 800+ people buried in York’s City Cemetery can have a dignified final resting place with recognition of their existence.

The people interred in York’s potter’s field range in age from stillborns to close to 100 years old. Their occupations included stone masons, domestic help, cigar makers, students, and “transients.” A few died from falling or alcohol poisoning, others tuberculosis or premature birth. Some were born in Germany, some into slavery, but many were born and raised in York County. Despite their differences in age, race, gender, and backgrounds, they all ended up together – in an anonymous grave with no marker – abandoned and forgotten.

Well, not anymore. We may not know all their names, but the monument will call attention to the site, creating a place where people can discuss the importance of this hallowed plot of land. Conversations surrounding privilege, class, and how we treat those who can’t afford burial plots. It may be just one acre, but the lessons learned will span generations.

We are incredibly grateful for our supporters. People generously opened their wallets, giving toward our cause – people probably like you who are reading this! We wish we could jump through the screen and hug you. Instead, we’ll just write “thank you” in all caps so you know how appreciative we are… THANK YOU!!!

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Make a donation

Donations are 100% tax deductible.

Inflation means we have to install the monument in stages. You may even see us fundraising again in the future!

The Friends of York City Cemetery invite you to help fund a memorial that will at last provide public recognition to the 800 people who were buried without markers at the cemetery often called Potter’s Field or Penny Heaven.

 After extensive research using city records, the Friends of York City Cemetery have catalogued the names of known people laid to rest in this site and their names will be inscribed on the stone memorial. Remembered at last!

Friends of York City Cemetery

Jamie Noerpel, Ph.D., Wandering in York County, Witnessing York, Chair

Samantha Dorm, Friends of Lebanon Cemetery

Tina Charles, Friends of Lebanon Cemetery

Dr. Joy Giguere, Pennsylvania Chapter of the Association of Gravestone Studies

Jack Sommer, President Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Heritage Foundation


an aerial view shows a red outline of the grassy area where these bodies are buried.
Unlike the cemetery at the left, the burial site for the poor, outlined in red, has no markers.


A stone monument has a central rectangular block flanked by two classical figures on a rusticated stone base.
The names will be inscribed on this monument.

When someone died, the city physician would coordinate the paperwork and the engineer would locate and identify the burial site. Then a public works crew dug and filled in the grave.

In 1897, York City exhumed over 600 bodies from West College Avenue between South Beaver Street and South Cherry Lane, moving them to a new location; their final resting place along Schley Alley and W. 7th Ave. in North York. Close to 200 more people have been interred here since then, with the last known burial taking place in 2004.

Names will be etched into the front side of the granite monument. Room will be reserved to allow for future discoveries. The reverse side will display a bronze plaque describing the history and significance of Penny Heaven. Finally, a photo of the 1930 grave index will be printed to show visitors the locations of known graves.

Learn more

Read Witnessing York: Class Division, Even in Death, by Jamie Noerpel, Ph.D. and Jim McClure

Read Wandering in York County: It’s More Than a Grassy Field; City Cemetery Bears 800 Unmarked Graves, by Jamie Noerpel, Ph.D.


Make a donation

Donations are 100% tax deductible.