Silver Monuments Departing the LES After More than 60 Years in Business

Posted on: August 31st, 2015 at 5:00 am by
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And so it goes, the last gravestone business on the Lower East Side is leaving. We knew eventually the day would come when Silver Monument Works would depart, but are in mourning nonetheless. Oh, that awesome antique store signage.

Neighborhood documentarian Clayton Patterson informs us that owner Murray Silver is gearing up for a move to Woodside, Queens. That’s apparently where the shop is (not to mention, the cemeteries), so relocating the showroom from 125 Stanton Street makes sense. Yet still sad. The tombstone purveyor has operated at this address since the 1940s, a five-story tenement in the family’s possession for decades.

Word on the street is that the operation will ship out within four weeks. Also, that Mr. Silver prefers to “rent the storefront to a ‘quiet’ business, not a restaurant; perhaps a gallery” after the departure.

Silver Monuments is itself a monument to the bygone gravestone district in this area. It thrived when this part of town was a Jewish enclave. Silver inherited the business from his late father Samuel Silver. His mother, Minnie, was the first woman on the Lower East Side to run a monument showroom.

However, this designated district began to decline in the 1950s when the population dispersed to the suburbs and rents subsequently rose. Because the Silver family owned 125 Stanton Street, they were able to gobble up the competition (including Forsyth, Weinreb & Gross).

The New York Times profiled Silver Monuments back in 2006. Here’s an excerpt:

The store is filled with examples of their work. On one family monument, a mother who was a seamstress was remembered by a spool of thread. On others, a feather in an inkwell for a son who was a writer; the scales of justice for a lawyer; an “Rx” for a pharmacist. Gravestones have been adorned by a deck of cards, a slot machine and a tennis racket.

Many customers have bought an engraving of candlesticks for their mothers because they were the ones who lighted the Shabbat candles every Friday night. Others would bring in a photograph of challah bread, which an artist reproduced. Tears came to Mrs. Silver’s eyes as she recounted one of the many difficult visits and a woman’s screams from half a century ago, which she still could hear. The woman came in with her husband and her parents to choose a monument for her 5-year-old son, who had been killed in a car accident.

[h/t The Villager]

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