October 26, 2003
Triptychs From the Crypt
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
The Charles Osborn mausoleum was a design of McKim Mead & White.
Audio Slide Show: Inside Woodlawn Cemetary
If there is a Fifth Avenue of the dead, it is probably the ensemble of 1,313 private family mausoleums around the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Like the mansions their occupants knew in life, these buildings hold artistic treasures intended to be seen by the very privileged. And the very few.
But over the last year, the crypt doors were nudged ever so slightly ajar, in the interest of conservation and security, to permit the first photographic inventory of Woodlawn's little masterpieces. "It's just unbelievable,'' said Susan Olsen, executive director of the Friends of the Woodlawn Cemetery. "These are really significant works of art.''
It is no secret that great architects, artisans and artists worked at Woodlawn to ensure that their clients' prominence extended from metropolis to necropolis. But the scope of the collection - stained glass, decorative mosaics, busts, statues, bas-reliefs, vases, candelabra - was not known until now.
The discoveries ranged from the glorious to the poignant, like a parrot resting in peace with Dr. Clark W. Dunlop, who died in 1908, and his wife, Eliza, who died in 1932.
Lee Sandstead, who teaches art history at Montclair State University in New Jersey, took more than 10,000 digital photographs. The inventory was financed by a $5,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and $10,000 raised by the Friends group.
Though 60 percent of the mausoleums are endowed, the money is not typically enough for proper protection and preservation. Many builders assumed servants would take care of things in perpetuity.
Cemetery officials hope to use the inventory to persuade present-day families to involve themselves more in the care of the mausoleums. They are also scrutinizing the records to learn which structures can be opened to the public.
"These people didn't build these spaces for no one to come see them,'' Ms. Olsen said.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Why? Are your tours usually products of family outings?
No...but in this case, seasonal precautions. Besides, I hate to visit the relatives alone.
July 8, 2004
BOOKS OF THE TIMES | 'THE SECRET CITY'
Elegy in a City Graveyard
By JANET MASLIN
When Fred Goodman decided to write a book about a 400-acre graveyard in the Bronx, he took on an unavoidable mission. He was going to have to dig things up.
After all, Woodlawn Cemetery does not automatically yield an easy premise. As the final resting place of both Herman Melville and the 700-pound rapper Big Pun, it is diverse in the extreme. No unifying ambience or ethos explains the place, and not even the Ozymandias angle gives Mr. Goodman (author of "The Mansion on the Hill," a blistering book about the music business) much to work with. Yes, the more than 350,000 New Yorkers interred at Woodlawn are all dead. But the glorious achievements of some have been long forgotten, while those of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Robert Moses live on.
At first Mr. Goodman approaches his subject in a roundabout manner. Quite literally: he tools around it on a bicycle, which seems as much an athletic ploy as a literary one. In the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center, and with the prospect of his own death prompting a midlife crisis, Mr. Goodman begins contemplating both Woodlawn and mortality. "Who hasn't worried about fading away?" he asks, looking at the grandest mausoleums. "Who wouldn't use money to try and beat death, to spray-paint his tag on the passing subway car of history?"
This is the point at which the book's research component kicks in. It is the time, for instance, to learn that Woodlawn is where the inventor of FM radio is buried. But "The Secret City" is a book that favors odd contortions. After some straightforward background about Woodlawn and its history, Mr. Goodman abruptly summons the specter of Melville and joins him to witness the events of September 11, 2001. ("I finally watch with him as first one and then the other building crumbles.")
"Listen: I have an act of faith to perform," Mr. Goodman announces to a New York in mourning. "I want to tell you my story about our cemeteries, the big one up in the Bronx and the other one that we're walking around in. It goes like this."
So here comes Walt Whitman, frayed trouser cuffs and all, "nodding vigorously" and exclaiming "Yes!" in Mr. Goodman's eagerly reanimated version. Now "The Secret City" becomes a string of desperate dramatizations, scenes that wake Woodlawn's residents from their eternal slumber and plunge them into dialogue of dubious provenance. When Whitman meets the phrenologists and publishers Orson and Lorenzo Fowler, who will go on to publish "Leaves of Grass," Mr. Goodman even dreams up some ersatz excitable Whitman. Upon making a business deal with the publishers, this book's Whitman declares, "Professor, you make a man's organ of Acquisitiveness positively throb with delight!"
Otherwise, delight over Mr. Goodman's embroideries is liable to be in short supply. After learning that Whitman is "not partial to strawberries," the reader is next confronted with sacks of rats. The book imagines the rats in combat, "swarming around the dog in a terrified riot of hair and teeth," as Mr. Goodman makes his bumpy segue to the story of Woodlawn's Henry Bergh, crusader against cruelty to animals and founder of the S.P.C.A. As is often the case here, Mr. Goodman points out that there is a good, straightforward biography of his subject (in this case a book called "Angel in Top Hat," by Zulma Steele) that is difficult if not impossible to find.
Lurid description of the swill being fed to cows gives way to the presidential privilege of Chester A. Arthur: now the book has moved on to Austin Corbin, its closest approximation of Ozymandias' broken statue in the desert. In his heyday, while trying to sway President Arthur to advance his own developing schemes, Corbin was a man winning big at a real-life game of Monopoly. He bought railroad lines on Long Island and put up Coney Island hotels, envisioning a grand empire. Part of his dream was that Montauk harbor be dredged; part was that Jews be kept out of Coney Island. The man's entire game plan added up to one more stop on the Woodlawn tour.
The book's other re-enactments, interspersed with the author's bicycle expeditions, feature John Purroy Mitchel, the young New York mayor trying to maintain calm in the midst of a polio epidemic; Francis Garvan, instrumental in the Palmer anti-Communist raids after World War I; and Countee Cullen, uptown poet during a period of great creative excitement. (" `You mean during the Harlem Renaissance?' Cullen intoned the words with mock gravity. `That's what they're calling it now, right?' ")
A maverick Congressman (Vito Marcantonio), an aviator (Ruth Nichols) and the sculptor (Attilio Piccirilli) whose 300,000 pound Lincoln Memorial had to be created in sections ("Signore President Lincoln might have held the Union together, but we had to break him apart") provide further opportunities for Mr. Goodman to ramble. What's the connection? Even he admits how arbitrary it becomes. "Like a satisfied tourist whose fond memories of a recent package tour to Rome now cause him to stop and read all the newspaper stories with Italian datelines he once ignored," he writes, "my antennae have become tuned to any vibrations emanating from that well-fertilized patch of Bronx earth."
But at the end of the day — the part of life that "The Secret City" obsessively addresses — this place is dead. It's still dead when this book's strenuous efforts are over.
THE SECRET CITY
Woodlawn Cemetery and the Buried History of New York
By Fred Goodman
Illustrated. 385 pages. Broadway Books. $26.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
July 29, 2004
Tomb Trouble: Nimby Strikes at Woodlawn
By JANE GROSS
ETERNAL REST DISTURBED The Helmsley mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
LEONA HELMSLEY, the real estate heiress and boldface prima donna, is suing the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx for $150 million and planning to disinter and relocate the body of her dear departed husband, Harry. The late Mr. Helmsley must be moved from the family mausoleum at the historic burial ground, the suit says, because of the ruination of the "open view, serenity and tranquillity."
Mrs. Helmsley's complaint, first reported Monday in The New York Post, is that the "perpetual beauty" and "peaceful solitude" of the spot have been destroyed by the latest of many community mausoleums to be built at Woodlawn. But the view Mrs. Helmsley describes as forever lost is bleak: the access ramps to the Major Deegan Expressway, a traffic light at Jerome Avenue and 233rd Street, and locked gates where the cemetery's grand entrance once was.
"That corner is kind of an eyesore," said Tom Woodworth, a vice president of Carrier Mausoleum Contractors of Montreal, the builder of the new mausoleum.
The new structure, Mrs. Helmsley alleges in the suit, will disturb the ambience at the Helmsley tomb, which the suit likens to the vault built in 353 B.C. for King Mausolus, the ruler of Caria, by his devoted wife, Artemisia, and which is "still known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world." Her lawyer and her publicist declined to comment on her behalf.
Community vaults are rising across the nation because of a shortage of in-ground burial sites and changing tastes in funereal accommodations. The new mausoleum, designed by J. Stuart Todd, a Dallas architect who specializes in funereal structures, is scheduled for completion in the next 30 days.
The new mausoleum is one of several near the Helmsley tomb. It bears little resemblance to the high-rise necropolis with room for 10,000 bodies described in news accounts.
According to the construction company, cemetery officials and renderings on various Web sites, the new Woodlawn mausoleum will have just one floor of vaults, stacked like large post office boxes in six rows, and a cathedral ceiling and skylight to rise no higher than two stories. There will be room for 2,600 bodies initially, with an eventual total of no more than 5,000, said John P. Toale Jr., Woodlawn's president.
These newcomers to Woodlawn will share the grounds with 1,250 private mausoleums and spend their eternity with the likes of Fiorello La Guardia, Duke Ellington, R. H. Macy and Robert Moses.
Mr. Toale, who says he has researched the matter, said Mrs. Helmsley's would appear to be the first lawsuit alleging that one is entitled, in perpetuity, to one's original view, however one describes it. As with suburban McMansions that loom over their neighbors or Trump towers that force adjacent apartment buildings into round-the-clock darkness, owners of funereal real estate rarely, if ever, win lawsuits concerning light, air or views.
Their recourse is to move, which is what Mrs. Helmsley, who the suit describes as having suffered "severe anguish and emotional distress," has told Woodlawn officials that she intends to do. The 20-by-30-foot granite Helmsley mausoleum (with six crypts) cost $350,000 when it was built in the 1970's, and the 2,064- square-foot lot it rests on cost $59,856. Inside, the complaint says, "the interior provides room for seating and private reflection, and stained-glass windows provide natural light for visitors."
Mrs. Helmsley has not yet sold the mausoleum or announced a price, but mausoleums can sell for considerable amounts. The Peale mausoleum at Woodlawn, resembling a classical Greek temple with Doric columns, is for sale for $610,000. Another mausoleum at Woodlawn, that of William Bateman Leeds, designed by John Russell Pope, is on the market for $3.5 million. In her suit Mrs. Helmsley mentions the possibility of moving the Helmsley mausoleum to an "appropriate site."
People familiar with the lawsuit said that Helmsleys will henceforth take their eternal rest at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester County. There, barring a need for a community mausoleum, Mr. Helmsley will share a Hudson River view with Washington Irving.
May they rest in peace.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
We are SO f^&*^&* fixated on the dead in our society.
If noone visits, WHO CARES IF THE "VIEW" IS RUINED!!!! THE GUY IS DEAD!!!!
And suing the burial ground? For what?
She should be able to disinter her husband, but tough patooties on the suit.
Gating the main entrance and doing things like that are a shame, but we are not YET in a society that walks with the dead and we should always remember that.
July 16, 2006
Forgotten Treasures in the Woodlawn Cemetary Archives
By DAVID DUNLAP
John Russell Pope’s mausoleum for William Bateman Leeds, an industrialist, in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The cemetery’s rich collection of archives contains blueprints for this and other memorials.
Raymond Hood and Charles Keck’s memorial for Placido Mori.
The initial rendering for the Miles Davis memorial.
PERHAPS death can be a bit proud, after all.
At Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, from the mid-19th century through much of the 20th, death inspired a creative outpouring of remarkable artistry, variety and even surprise: for example, an urn by the sculptor Alexander Archipenko and a landscaped monument by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, the planner of New Delhi.
The record of this work — blueprints, booklets, drawings, ledgers, letters, maps, photographs, plans, receipts, sketches and trade catalogs — is so illuminating and important that Woodlawn’s trustees formally donated the cemetery archives last month to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.
The archives amount to the largest single accession Avery has made in its 116 years, said Gerald Beasley, the library’s director. In all, they run to 800 linear feet, longer even than College Walk, which bisects the Morningside Heights campus.
“There is so much to be found in the files,” said Susan Olsen, the executive director of Friends of the Woodlawn Cemetery. “For the biographies of all the people who are buried at Woodlawn, all the last chapters will have to be rewritten now.”
And the archives may greatly expand an intriguing line of art history: the social architecture of death — how people conceived their own distinctive monuments while respecting (or trumping) those of their neighbors. With 1,316 family mausoleums, Woodlawn is not just a city of the dead, but a densely populated one at that.
“They literally overlook one another’s plots,” Mr. Beasley said. “You see the design as a dialogue with the client and the kinds of limits being pushed in all the different styles. The dialogue becomes like an architectural museum.”
There are bound to be more surprises as catalogers and researchers dive in. For the last 24 years, since it closed its Manhattan office, Woodlawn has kept the archives in whatever odd space it could find around its 400 acres: maintenance barns, offices, the Woolworth Chapel, the Jerome Avenue gatehouse.
From time to time, authors or researchers would turn up at the cemetery in search of a particular record and, as often as not, leave astonished by what they found: blueprints by John Russell Pope, the architect of the National Gallery of Art; a delicately hand-colored plan by E. L. Lutyens, R.A. (Royal Academician); and Duke Ellington’s looping legal signature — Edward Kennedy Ellington — on a plan of his family plot.
The nonprofit friends group, which encourages educational and cultural programs and oversees preservation of the cemetery’s historical structures and grounds, began to realize that the archives had far greater value and appeal than most corporate records.
“We want to make sure these things are as accessible as possible,” Ms. Olsen said. Donating the archives to Avery, she said, meant that they would come under the discerning eye of Columbia scholars; that they would be properly stored, organized and cataloged; and that Woodlawn would get back some much-needed space.
The transfer is to occur over the next five to seven years, starting with the records of the major mausoleums and monuments by this winter. Avery hopes to raise the money for a full-time cataloger, said Janet S. Parks, the library’s curator of drawings and archives.
Much of the material will go to the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium high-density storage center in Princeton, N.J., from which it can be retrieved on a day’s notice. But the most valuable, useful and exquisite objects will be kept at Avery in a newly constructed drawings and archives storage area.
These include the initial sketch of Miles Davis’s monument, which turned out more formally in the final version, and of the Ellington family plot, which was drawn on the back of a Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company envelope postmarked Nov. 21, 1961.
There is a photograph of the maquette of the Placido Mori memorial by the architect Raymond Hood and the sculptor Charles Keck, probably best known in New York for his statue of Father Francis P. Duffy in Duffy Square. Though clearly premodernist in its simplicity, the soft romanticism of its contemplative seminude figure is surprising, given the hard-edged aesthetic Hood employed as the leading designer of Rockefeller Center.
But maybe there was more than a little sentiment to the commission. Mori, who died in 1927, was the proprietor of a restaurant on Bleecker Street. He had given the young Hood a place to stay, a tab at the restaurant and a commission to redesign its facade.
If Hood’s work seems out of character, the presence of Lutyens — in the Bronx — seems wildly and wonderfully out of place. Ms. Olsen said this appeared to be his only American commission, apart from the British ambassador’s residence (originally the British embassy) in Washington.
For Woodlawn, Lutyens designed a memorial to James Keteltas Hackett, a famous stage actor in his day who died on Nov. 8, 1926, a day before he was to have performed a scene from “Macbeth” for King George V.
Lutyens’s drawing shows a work in progress. The inscription on the three-foot stone stele merely says “Inscription,” with some pencil lines under it. His plan to mark each grave with a cross was evidently abandoned. The crosses are scribbled out.
There is much to the archives besides art history. Sometimes, the most poignant personal notes are to be found. Vernon and Irene Castle were a hugely popular dance team in the early 20th century. He died in 1918 when the plane he was piloting crashed. His grave at Woodlawn is marked with a grieving nude figure by Sally James Farnham.
On April 24, 1945, Mrs. Castle wrote, “I plan to be buried next to Captain Castle myself, and I must say that every time I visit the grave I feel impatient to get there.” But she lived another 24 years.
Perhaps the most astonishing item to jump from the files so far is the drawing, signed by Archipenko in 1946, for a memorial for the art collector Alfred Romney. The centerpiece is a four-legged bronze urn, not quite three feet tall, that could be construed as an hourglass. Or as a precursor to the spacecraft in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
Ms. Olsen cheerfully acknowledged her surprise when she discovered the memorial’s distinguished artistic provenance.
“I’ve walked by this a million times,” she said. “We called it the ‘Mongolian beef pot’ until we opened the file and found out it was by Archipenko.”
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
May 27, 2007
Romancing the Stones
By LAURA SHAINE CUNNINGHAM
Slide Show: Eternal Beauty
GROWING up in the Bronx, I knew Woodlawn Cemetery as the final destination of my subway route, the No. 4 elevated train that ran along Jerome Avenue and rattled literally to the end of the line.
When I was a small child and my mother took me on sylvan strolls there, I didn’t realize that Woodlawn was a graveyard. I thought it was merely a park filled with miniature mansions and seductive statuary. The pensive nudes seemed turned to stone by a spell, one that might someday be lifted, allowing the godlike figures to break out of their solemn poses and cavort through the sunbeams.
These childhood fantasies are not so removed from today’s truth. A new spirit has been released at the 144-year-old cemetery with the transfer of the cemetery’s vast archives to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library of Columbia University. The trove includes architectural designs, maps, photographs, letters and mausoleum blueprints — some 800 linear feet. The size of the collection is unsurprising; with more than 300,000 burials and 1,300 family mausoleums, Woodlawn is the world capital of mausoleums.
The material began its journey to Morningside Heights only weeks after the library took title to the archive nearly a year ago, and the library is just now receiving the family correspondence that illuminates the backgrounds of the dead and their mourners. The first of the documents, among them a bank envelope bearing Duke Ellington’s signature and a drawing for Miles Davis’s monument scrawled on a sketch of his burial lot, are already available for viewing. The library estimates that it will take five years and $850,000 to process and catalog the entire collection, which has been stored for decades in boxes and file cartons in outbuildings on the cemetery’s grounds, largely inaccessible for research.
There is much excitement over a new find of 20 files of previously unsorted letters, which have yet to be examined by anyone with curatorial or historical expertise. The documents provide a chronicle of Who Was Who in New York. Woodlawn is not only the resting place of the famous; along with Ellington and Davis, notables include Herman Melville, Fiorello La Guardia, Joseph Pulitzer, an assortment of Belmonts, Woolworths and Juilliards and — who knew? — the Western lawman Bat Masterson. In addition, the buried rich and famous were entombed by the most renowned architects and designers of their day: John Russell Pope; Carrère and Hastings; James Gamble Rogers; McKim, Mead & White; and Tiffany Studios, to name just a few.
Among other fascinating details, these documents reveal that a final resting place is often not so final. Many a mausoleum has changed inhabitants, as mausoleums are often sold. Some mausoleums do not even house stones engraved with the names of those laid to rest there, either out of design discretion or perhaps the intimation of a mobile mortality.
The historic transfer of many of New York’s most historic documents resulted from a conversation at the cemetery two summers ago between Susan Olsen, executive director of Friends of Woodlawn (“I’m the only friend; Friends of Woodlawn is me,” she says), and Charles Warren, an architect, author, historic preservationist and member of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America, an organization that has also played a key role in bringing attention to Woodlawn’s recent discoveries.
Mr. Warren’s connection to the graveyard runs deep. The only known history of Woodlawn was written by his great-uncle Edward Streeter, author of the novel “Father of the Bride,” and one day when Mr. Warren was walking the grounds of Woodlawn, he came upon a linden tree that had been dedicated to his ancestor. “I had no idea,” he marveled. “Cemetery serendipity.”
Mr. Warren had visited Woodlawn in the spring of 2005 to research a biography of Carrère and Hastings, the architectural duo who designed the New York Public Library, the Manhattan Bridge and more than half a dozen monuments at Woodlawn.
One day a few months later, when Mr. Warren was at the cemetery, he and Ms. Olsen fell into conversation. “Somehow Susan and I got talking about the brilliant Edwardian architect Edwin Lutyens,” Mr. Warren said. “As we talked about the Great War cemeteries Lutyens designed in northern France, Sue reached for a folder and told me about the Lutyens monument at Woodlawn.” Lutyens’s only other only completed North American project was the British Embassy in Washington.
“The folder contained a trove of correspondence and the most exquisite watercolor plan of the monument,” Mr. Warren went on. “It may have been then that I said, ‘Does anyone at Avery Library know about this material?’ ”
Mr. Warren broached the subject with Janet Parks, a former Columbia classmate who is now curator of drawings at Avery Library, and the idea was quickly embraced by Gerald Beasley, the library’s director.
“The beauty of the archive,” Mr. Beasley says, “is that cemeteries keep meticulous records.” And it’s all there: the design plans for monuments, landscape plans for plots, and the hard-core details of burial, the nitty-gritty of rock-breaking and grave-digging equipment.
The archives, whose transfer was completed in just a year, may prove the Bronx equivalent of the grave of King Tut.
“This is the collective memory of the city,” Mr. Beasley often says of the collection. In his opinion, the transfer is especially appropriate because the architecture of the university, the cemetery and the city is inseparable. Carrère and Hastings are just one of many links; three Carrère brothers attended Columbia, and many Columbia graduates are buried at Woodlawn. The campus shares with the cemetery the architect James Gamble Rogers, who designed Butler Library.
Rogers also designed the memorial for Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida. The Strauses were the owners of Macy’s but were most notable as the elderly couple who gave up their seats aboard a lifeboat and went down with the Titanic, holding hands on deck. Their memorial contains a small, Egyptian-style funerary barge bearing the words “Lost at Sea.” A peek at a lot record in the archive, however, reveals that only Isidor rests there; Ida’s body was never recovered.
Why did so many great architects work at the graveyard?
“The purity,” Mr. Beasley says. “The mausoleum was the perfect model. The architects could design freely without being concerned with kitchens or bathrooms. The mausoleum is the house that will never be lived in.”
It is no accident that the monuments and mausoleums of Woodlawn evoke those of the ancient royals of Rome, Greece and Egypt. Woodlawn came of age during the golden age of crypts, an era when many people were rich and spared no expense even when it came to the afterlife, not only on architects’ fees but also on landscape designs. These tombs and memorial gardens begged for immortality.
The physical expression of this quest for immortality has long been visible to visitors who roamed Woodlawn’s 400 grassy acres. Now, some of the evocative supporting documents that shed light on these edifices can also be savored. I am able to view a few documents, as some approved visitors have already done, in Avery’s reading room. Within seconds, I am lost in written invitations to the past, into the earth itself.
“The dogwoods are to be watered very carefully until the ground freezes, to be sure they do not start the winter with dry balls,” wrote Beatrix Farrand, perhaps the most noted landscape designer of her time, referring to the Harkness courtyard garden.
I hold a letter written by Irene Castle, the early-20th-century ballroom dancer whose beloved husband and partner, Vernon, reposes beneath a memorial titled “At the End of the Day.” “Every time I visit the grave I feel impatient to get there,” Irene Castle wrote of the memorial where she, too, would be buried. The love shimmers off the cream-colored stationery.
In the letter, Irene Castle evokes Sally James Farnham’s 1922 sculpture of a kneeling nude nymph, modeled after an exhausted Isadora Duncan dancer who posed for it, and a figure that perfectly expressed both grace and spent emotion. The description of the statue brings Irene Castle to life during her visits to the graveyard, and her own letter, on a table in Avery’s reading room, revives her here.
I am reluctant to leave. I want to know more of Melville. Did Dr. Joseph Condon, the go-between in the Lindbergh kidnapping case of 1932, really arrange a meeting with Bruno Hauptmann, the German carpenter eventually convicted of the crime, at Melville’s grave?
Who knows what we will learn of Michael Strange, wife of the actor John Barrymore and mother of the troubled Diana Barrymore? Both Strange and her daughter, a suicide, lie at Woodlawn.
And what of all the jazz players, not just Davis and Ellington, but also W. C. Handy and Coleman Hawkins? The existing sketches of monuments, funerary art, the dead themselves tease us into wanting more. I can almost hear the faint sounds of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” So many will want to be in that number.
Mr. Beasley, hovering nearby, sums up best the unexpectedly powerful allure of this place and the documents that tell its story. “Life doesn’t end with the end of life,” he says. “It continues with the memorializing. Our role is to keep these stories alive. They are alive here.”
Laura Shaine Cunningham’s books include the Bronx memoir “Sleeping Arrangements.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
No pets buried, only loyal pet owners: Woodlawn Cemetery tour for borough animal lovers
BY Tanyanika Samuels
October 16th 2009
Dog-lover/cartoonist Frank Bellew Jr's grave site. Bellew's father was the illustrator who drew 'Uncle Sam.'
Dr. Samuel Johnson, the founder of the nation’s oldest pet cemetery,
is at rest in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn, not far from several of his most notable clients:
dancer Irene Castle, the Princess who buried her lion Goldfleck,
and Tony LaMura who built a matching mausoleum for his dog Sandy.
There's the eclectic Hungarian princess who had a pet lion cub named Gold Fleck.
Then there's the legendary dancer, Irene Castle, who doted on her many animals, including her pet monkey.
Their stories are just some of the highlights lined up for Woodlawn Cemetery's Animal Lovers Tour this Sunday.
"It's a quirky little tour," said Susan Olsen, director of historical services.
The tour, which is a first, will explore the stories of those who honored their animal friends with monuments at the Bronx cemetery at E. 233rd St. and Webster Ave., or with special burials at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.
New York State prohibits people from being buried with their pets, so there are no pets buried at Woodlawn, Olsen said.
Subsequently many of Woodlawn's wealthiest lot owners buried their beloved furry friends in Hartsdale.
"It turns out, we have a huge connection with the pet cemetery," said Olsen, who will lead Sunday's tour. "So we'll be visiting the graves of many of Hartsdale Pet Cemetery's famous pet owners."
Among the other highlights will be a stop at a mausoleum for Sandy, a beloved little dog who could often be seen scampering through the Woodlawn grounds.
The 400-acre Bronx cemetery, established in 1863, is the final resting place of many historic figures, including the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz; jazz greats Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, and the Macy's department store founder Isidor Straus, who died in the sinking of the Titanic.
Friends of Woodlawn Cemetery hosts several popular tours throughout the year.
Upcoming events include the Autumn Leaves Tour at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25; the History and Mystery Tours from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, featuring the graves of notorious figures as well as tales of tragic events; and the Westchester Legacy Tour on Nov. 8 featuring the graves of several historic Westchester County figures.
Animal Lovers Tour
2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 18. Enter at the Jerome Ave. Gate (near Bainbridge Ave.)Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for seniors and students. Children under 6 are free.
For reservations, call (718) 920-1470 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.