Army Corps Expansion of Historic West Point Cemetery Complete

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Published May 26, 2024

The official ribbon-cutting for the expanded West Point Cemetery at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Left to right: New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young; West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steven Gilland; Executive Director Office of Army Cemeteries Karen Durham-Aguilera; West Point Cemetery Director Jenifer McSwain; and Command Sgt. Major Philip Barretto.


A new columbarium wall for cremated remains at the expanded West Point Cemetery at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. In the background is a new maintenance facility.


New York District Personnel pictured at the ceremony: Left to Right: Robert Gerrits, Raymond Pifer, Diana Trombly, Gerardo Siniscalchi, New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young, Gavin Kaiser, John Butler, Jennifer McSwain (West Point) and Robert Hanna.


The newly-expanded West Point Cemetery at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Amenities include signage, larger space for visitors and a walkway around the premises.

The New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with officials from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Army Corps North Atlantic Division (Brooklyn, NY), the Office of Army Cemeteries, project contractor and design personnel and invited guests joined together for a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the West Point Cemetery after a major Army Corps expansion/reclamation project on the West Point Campus 50 miles north of New York City overlooking the Hudson River.

Nearly 3,500 New Graves

The expansion includes an additional 3,492 graves, including in-ground burial sites and internments for cremated remains. A new columbarium wall ⎼ a smaller version of a mausoleum ⎼ has 468 compartments for cremated remains in the back portion of the cemetery overlooking New York’s Hudson River.

After remarks from West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steven Gilland, New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young stepped to the podium. He spoke about engineering and legacy:

“We had to overcome some of the toughest engineering challenges from across West Point and our entire portfolio,” said Young, adding, “the property adjacent to the cemetery has an extreme slope ⎼ we stabilized it enabling us to build this project.”   

Young continued: “As we cut the ribbon here today, let us reflect on this morning’s significance, honor the memories of those who rest here and renew our commitment to preserving their legacy for future generations. May the West Point Cemetery continue to stand as a testament to the courage and sacrifice of those who have served our nation, inspiring us all.”

Overcoming Challenges

The expansion was a challenging project to construct. Obstacles successfully overcome were: 

▶ To make room for the expansion, an old gas station was demolished, and nearby contaminated soil excavated and removed. This took approximately 18 months to complete.

▶ During excavation for new plots, a significant amount of rock was discovered. Hundreds of tons were re-used in the newly installed riprap swale (a channel with an erosion-resistant rock lining designed to carry run-off to a stable outlet.)

▶ Stability of the site was another issue, involving an intricate construction, engineering and design process. Some 170 piles (circular pieces of metal pipe) were drilled into bedrock to support the weight of the new 16-foot retaining wall, allowing for stabilization not only of the new burial sections but also of the steep slope behind it.

Renovation & Expansion

In addition to new burial plots and the columbarium wall, the five-acre project includes the following renovations:

▶ Creation of a maintenance building with heating and air-conditioning for cemetery staff

▶ New lighting, entrance gates and vehicle and pedestrian access paths

▶ Signage for visitors to locate loved ones and others laid to rest there

▶ More spacious grounds, access for individuals with disabilities and a new publicly-accessible restroom

▶ New water lines, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, telecommunications and electric power distribution

Historical Elements

The cemetery’s sprawling 11.4-acre grounds is home to 9,000+ graves and several monuments, including the distinguished Old Cadet Chapel that greets visitors at the entrance. Prior to designation as a military cemetery in 1817, the grounds were used by local residents for burials ⎼ there are graves of soldiers and civilians as far back as the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). In fact, the West Point Cemetery is America’s oldest military-post cemetery and a National Historic Landmark attracting thousands of visitors each year.

The cemetery holds some of America’s most storied military leaders and historic figures: Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., commander of coalition forces in the Gulf War; Lt. Col. Edward White, II, the first American to walk in space; and Maj. Gen. Frederick Dent Grant, son of President Ulysses S. Grant, a soldier and U.S. Minister to Austria-Hungary, among many others.

New York District employees overseeing the expansion included project manager Raymond Pifer, and project engineers Robert Hanna and John Butler. They worked integrally with the West Point Department of Public Works Project Manager Tara Ostock and West Point Cemetery Director Jenifer McSwain.

Pifer said: “This project supports the Army’s commitment to provide in-ground burial to authorized service members and their families who have dedicated their lives in the service of this nation.”

Butler noted: “As I watch people walk through sections of the cemetery that are so old as frequently as people do, I realize that they are likely not visiting family; rather, individuals that made an impact on the many generations that have followed them. It is a gentle reminder that this cemetery contains not only individuals that are mourned by their family, but individuals that we are indebted to for their past actions.”

Butler continued: “When I learned I would be working on a cemetery I cannot deny there was some apprehension, but after this initial reaction, I find myself truly honored and privileged to have worked on a project providing the final resting place for many of the leaders that this academy has and continues to create during the 20th and 21st centuries. It will allow them to take their place in history alongside those that have chosen the academy as their final resting place.”

Contributions From Other Districts

The New York District received support from Army Corps District’s across the U.S. to complete the project:

▶ Soil testing from the St. Louis District soil laboratory and mobile testing facility which came to the site for several weeks; the Savannah District soil laboratory; and the Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Material Testing Center (ERDC is an Army Corps engineering research and laboratory organization in Vicksburg, MS.)  

▶ The Paint Technology Center at ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, IL, provided technical support to ensure long term durability and compatibility of the paint systems utilized.

▶ Baltimore District provided an onsite Ordnance and Explosives Safety Specialist to evaluate suspected munition related items uncovered during the excavations.

The West Point Cemetery is located in the northeast corner of the campus overlooking the Hudson River. The expansion is estimated to provide enough space to accommodate burials for the next 30 years.