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Thread: The Green-Wood Cemetery

  1. #16


    January 30, 2006
    Brooklyn Journal

    The Ones Who Prepare the Ground for the Last Farewell


    To become a gravedigger at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, you have to pass the traditional test of digging a standard single grave — 3 by 8 feet, and 5 feet down — in less than four hours.

    "Some guys will say right then and there, 'I quit, this isn't for me,' " said George Barreto, 54, the foreman of Green-Wood's gravediggers.

    The key, he said during a visit on Friday, is to start slow and begin your dirt pile far from the hole, so there is room nearby to put the last shovelfuls when fatigue sets in and you're deep in your first grave.

    "I don't need a ruler to measure the depth," he said, pointing to a short gravedigger on his crew. "I just take him by the collar and stick him down there. If I can't see him, that's five feet."

    The other men on the crew laughed and piled into their truck, a big, green box truck with an open back that takes them from plot to plot. Inside, there are soil and shovels on the floor and the men sit police-wagon style as the truck lurches and bounces along the curving cemetery roads.

    "When I tell people I'm a gravedigger, they actually get scared, like we dig up skulls or something," said Anthony Carrasquillo. "They say, 'How can you work in there, with all those dead people?' I tell them, 'I have no problem with dead people, only the live ones.' "

    Once, Green-Wood had scores of gravediggers and 50 new graves a day. Space is running short, though, and cremations are on the rise, so there are only a handful a day at Green-Wood now, and most are dug by a single man operating the levers of a backhoe. Graves are hand-dug if they are on a slope or wedged between headstones or trees, or if the coffin is for a small child.

    Families often buy a plot with a plan to add a second or third coffin months, years or decades later. Most of those graves are dug nine feet deep to accommodate three stacked coffins.

    "See, this grave is full now," Frank Bernardini said Friday morning, standing over a grave he was about to fill in. "You could put cremated remains on top, or a baby's casket, but the health laws say you have to have something like three or four feet of dirt on top."

    With firm, dry soil, a good gravedigger can turn out a neat, steep rectangular grave, said Mr. Bernardini, a backhoe operator on the gravedigging squad.

    "You can dig a nine-footer in about 20 minutes if there are no cave-ins," Mr. Bernardini said. If the soil is rocky and loose or moist, he added, the sides keep caving in and have to be shored up.

    Like most of the gravediggers at Green-Wood, Mr. Bernardini, 42, who has worked there for 20 years, started by mowing grass. Since then, he said, he has dug tens of thousands of final resting places.

    "I've put away a lot of people," Mr. Bernardini said. "The saddest ones have definitely been the children. Digging a kid's grave, that's the worst. I've definitely shed tears. Also with the 9/11 victims we buried."

    Green-Wood's diggers belong to Teamsters Local 966. The job pays around $45,000 with full benefits, and advancement is possible, in mausoleum and crematory work.

    "It's not just digging and lifting," said Felix Hernandez, another gravedigger. "You have to be strong to handle the death and grief."

    The gravediggers begin their day preparing grave sites for the flurry of burial ceremonies that usually come by late morning. The afternoon is mostly spent filling in graves after burials and digging new ones for the next morning.

    They arrive at new plots, staked out by a superintendent, and lay down plywood sheets to put the dirt on. The backhoe pulls out big buckets of dirt and the gravedigger crew trims stray roots and otherwise makes the site neater. A support frame is set over the hole, to hold the coffin during the ceremony.

    A Green-Wood foreman, James Loiacono, 33, pointed out the crematorium as he drove the gravediggers in the truck on Friday morning.

    "When the ovens are on, you can see the smoke, and there's a definite smell," he said. "Especially when it's a heavy person. They say it's something with the fat burning. There's a bread factory nearby and the smell mixes with the bread, and you don't know what you're smelling."

    He stopped at an open grave and soon a hearse pulled up, leading a long line of cars. Four gravediggers opened the hearse's back door, slid out the coffin and walked it to the grave to place it on the platform over the hole. The mourners, in dark, formal clothing, gathered around the grave, and the gravediggers, in their soiled green uniforms, receded to watch and chat amid gravestones. Down the road, Mr. Bernardini idled his backhoe.

    "Families don't like to see the machine," he said. "They know it's burying their loved one for good."

    Afterward, the diggers lowered the coffin into the ground.

    "Easy, fellas, let it down slow," said Vincent Raccuglia, the funeral director. "Let's not take the express."

    Sometimes, families ask that the lowering be done during the service.

    "That's usually when people lose it," Mr. Hernandez said. "They see it going into the ground, and it hits them that the person's never coming back."

    * Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

  2. #17


    The mausoleum and columbarium are 2 of my favourite buildings my company has designed, i really must get out there and see them in person!

  3. #18
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    A Lurid Tale From 1857 Is Revived in Granite

    Christian Hansen for The New York Times
    A new headstone marks the burial place of Emma Cunningham, acquitted of killing her lover.

    September 19, 2007

    Back in 1857, they were the hottest names in old New-York. Harvey Burdell and Emma Cunningham — the violent, rapacious and brutally murdered society dentist and his scheming and probably murderous mistress, mutual antagonists in the most lurid true-crime drama of the age.

    For well over a century, the pair, essentially disowned by their families, lay interred in unmarked graves a few hundred yards from each other in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, their whereabouts known only to a few history buffs.

    No longer. Yesterday, before a rapt if small audience of retrospective voyeurs, two sparkling granite headstones were unveiled: Harvey Burdell, 1811-1857. And Emma Augusta Hempstead Cunningham, 1818-1887. “May God rest her troubled soul,” reads the inscription.

    The stones — and Mrs. Cunningham’s epitaph — are the doing of an amateur historian sufficiently obsessed with the case to spend the last seven years writing a book about it.

    Christian Hansen for The New York Times
    A tombstone at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn was unveiled Tuesday for Harvey Burdell,
    a dentist who was killed in 1857.

    The man, Benjamin Feldman, a retired lawyer, real estate developer and Yiddishist, insisted that no endorsement of the couple’s evil ways was implied.

    “It’s not a question of honoring them,” Mr. Feldman, a thin, ponytailed man with the bearing of a merry undertaker, said after the graveside service, news of which was published yesterday by AM New York. “It’s a question of what in Hebrew is called ‘t’chiyat ha-metim’ — raising the dead. You enlarge all of us when you bring these stories back to life.”

    And what a story. In their ever-spiraling battle of bad faith and faithlessness, the two lovers managed to embody many of the ills of the age: the rampant vice and political corruption, the straitened economic and sexual circumstances of women and the destabilizing influence of new wealth on traditional social structures.

    The tale, as lovingly told by Mr. Feldman in his book, “Butchery on Bond Street,” boils down to this: Harvey Burdell was a dentist of humble background who built a thriving practice in his four-story town house at 31 Bond Street, midway between the vice dens of the Bowery and the glitzier honky-tonk of lower Broadway. In his spare time, Dr. Burdell, who was divorced, enjoyed gambling, sexual predation and real estate swindling.

    Emma Cunningham was a young widow with five children and was desperately seeking a man who could support her and her brood in the manner to which she had grown accustomed. She had been married to a distiller who had squandered most of his family’s fortune.

    No one alive knows precisely how Emma met Harvey, but once they got together, in or around 1854, things got pretty intense. They returned from a whirlwind trip to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with Mrs. Cunningham pregnant. She wanted to keep the baby. He did not. She had an abortion, possibly performed by him.

    Nothing if not persistent, Mrs. Cunningham insinuated herself into the dentist’s household as the landlady of the rooming house he ran out of his building. They continued their dalliance. She claimed he raped her twice, according to court papers.

    “It was not a comfortable relationship,” Mr. Feldman observed.

    Mrs. Cunningham tried everything to get Dr. Burdell to agree to tie the knot. She had him arrested for breach of promise to marry. In secret, she did marry a man who told the minister he was Harvey Burdell, but who was almost undoubtedly an impostor.

    Three months after the ceremony, on Jan. 31, 1857, Dr. Burdell was found dead in his dental clinic. More precisely, according to The New-York Daily Times, “the body was lying upon the floor, shockingly mutilated, and surrounded with clots of blood, and the door and walls of the room besmeared with blood.”

    Not to be outdone, The New York Herald described 6 of the 15 stab wounds. “Twice the steel had pierced the heart, twice the lungs had been reached with the deadly point of the stiletto, while the jugular vein and the carotid artery were both severed,” it said, according to Mr. Feldman’s book.

    Then the case really took off. The coroner’s inquest was held in Dr. Burdell’s office, with witnesses testifying in the chair where his patients had recently sat. A recommendation that one of the dead man’s eyeballs be excised and his retina examined for traces of what, or whom, he saw in his dying moments was proposed and discarded. Mrs. Cunningham threw herself on the open coffin and cried, “Oh, I wish to God you could speak and tell who done it.”

    More than 8,000 people tried to cram into Grace Church on Broadway at 10th Street for his funeral. Soon after, she was charged with the murder. There being no witnesses, and her lawyer arguing successfully that a member of the weaker sex afflicted with rheumatism was incapable of such a brutal attack, she was acquitted. (Mr. Feldman said he believed that Mrs. Cunningham had a prominent role in the murder even if she did not commit it herself.)

    Set free, Mrs. Cunningham tackled her next mission: obtaining Dr. Burdell’s estate, estimated at $80,000. But her claim to be carrying his child was proven false when she was caught taking delivery of another woman’s baby to call her own. And her insistence that she had married Dr. Burdell similarly unraveled in the face of testimony that another paramour had been seen buying a toupee and false whiskers the day of the wedding in order to resemble Dr. Burdell.

    Emma Cunningham died a pauper at the age of 69. Harvey Burdell’s murder was never solved. Both were eventually forgotten, until Jeffrey I. Richman, the historian of Green-Wood Cemetery, read an account of the case and included it in a book about the cemetery. Mr. Feldman bought the book in 2000, and a fixation was born. Mr. Feldman and the cemetery split the $6,500 cost of the grave markers.

    Yesterday, as a large spider crept across Emma Cunningham’s tombstone in the crisp sunlight, Mr. Feldman recalled his excitement when he first read the twisted tale of Harvey Burdell and Emma Cunningham.

    “The interplay between them,” he said, “is one of the most hideous, dysfunctional, psychopathic couplings between man and woman that I’ve ever read. I knew I had to see their graves appropriately marked.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  4. #19

  5. #20

    Default New Green-Wood Cemetery Book

    One of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit in New York City is Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. If you want to know about the history of this city, you should take a guided tour.
    To that end, you may be interested to know that there is a new book coming out this month about Green-Wood Cemetery. I just read about it on Amazon's site. It is published by Arcadia Publsihing and the author's name is Mosca. From what I read, lots of the famous people buried in Green-Wood can be found in the book with photos of their graves.

  6. #21


    Green-Wood Cemetery Builds a Collection

    Published: December 6, 2008

    It is the city’s most monumental art collection. Literally.

    Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    The grave of William Holbrook Beard, a painter known for his depictions of humanlike animals. More Photos »


    Slide Show Green-Wood Cemetery's Resident Artists

    Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    A Louis Eilshemius work began Green-Wood’s collection. More Photos >

    For the last four years, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the 170-year-old resting place of entombed luminaries from Boss Tweed to Leonard Bernstein and the original Brooks brothers, has been acquiring paintings created by the artists — both legendary and obscure — who have taken up permanent residence.

    “It’s one thing to stand at the grave site,” said Richard J. Moylan, the president of Green-Wood. “But seeing the works of art these people created in their lifetimes gives them a kind of immortality.”

    The collection began with a small oil by Louis M. Eilshemius, a visionary painter of cavorting nymphs, and has grown to 70 works by the likes of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Eastman Johnson, William Merritt Chase, George Wesley Bellows, George Catlin, Daniel Huntington, John George Brown, Philip Evergood, Vestie Davis, Bruce Crane, John La Farge, the printmakers Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, and William Holbrook Beard, famed for his satiric paintings of animals engaged in human activities, including his influential 1879 depiction of Wall Street bulls and bears (which is on view at the New-York Historical Society).

    As part of an effort to recover its past, the cemetery has discovered more than 3,000 Civil War soldiers and sailors whose graves dot the manicured hills, as well as hundreds of important figures from the early days of baseball. Now the cemetery has identified 220 artists at Green-Wood, “and we expect there may be many more,” said Jeffrey I. Richman, the cemetery’s historian.

    They range from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Samuel F. B. Morse (both of whose paintings are out of the cemetery’s price range) to lesser-known artists such as Samuel S. Carr, whose works are definitely within its means.

    “The collection is unique,” Mr. Richman said, because “none of the nation’s other historic cemeteries have substantial systematic collections of deceased artists.”

    The nonprofit cemetery has an annual budget of $13 million for operations, maintenance and the restoration of the monuments of nearly 600,000 people in the 478-acre cemetery. “So we don’t have a huge amount of money for art,” Mr. Moylan said, adding that “originally, I never thought we could afford original works by artists.”

    But Green-Wood’s historic fund has so far paid some $250,000 for paintings, and Mr. Moylan has been persistently on the hunt, buying artworks at auctions after painstaking research, sometimes abetted by Mr. Richman. “The economic downturn is horrible, but it has made a lot of art more affordable, so we’re hoping to keep acquiring,” Mr. Moylan said.

    Some of the works in the collection would probably not interest major museums, “but most are fair representations of the artists’ work,” Mr. Moylan said. For example, its Eastman Johnson portrait is an 1848 painting of his grandmother when he was in his 20s. “We couldn’t afford any of his greatest paintings.”

    One of the cemetery’s prized possessions is a portrait of DeWitt Clinton by George Catlin, now famous for his hundreds of paintings of American Indians in the 1820s and 1830s. “I love this painting,” Mr. Moylan said, “because it was a doubleheader, a painting by one of our own — and a portrait of one of our own,” he said of those in the cemetery.

    Mr. Moylan, who bought it for $5,875, was unsure of its provenance, and called in a foremost Catlin researcher, Joan Carpenter Troccoli, senior scholar at the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum.

    “There is no question that it is by Catlin,” Ms. Troccoli said in an interview. “It has Catlin’s hand.” Dr. Troccoli will deliver a lecture on Sunday — titled “Is this Painting Real?” — at 1 p.m. in the Green-Wood chapel about her detective work on the Catlin portrait.

    She added that the painting of Clinton was probably painted in the late 1820s, just after Catlin created a full-length portrait of Clinton that is prominently hanging in City Hall. The one in Green-Wood “is not a masterpiece, but is lighter, less worked-over and more approachable.” Of Clinton and Catlin, Dr. Troccoli said that “their fate is so strange — they both ended up in Green-Wood.” But Clinton was accorded a grand, sculpted monument, while Catlin “was buried without a gravestone.”

    She explained that Catlin’s in-laws’ family felt that he had deserted his wife, Clara, so the artist, who was destitute when he died, wound up relegated to a far corner, without a marker, in her family’s plot at Green-Wood. Finally, in 1961, a plain granite stone was placed at the grave by his descendants and others.

    He was not the only artist to be unrecognized. One work in Mr. Moylan’s collection, from Philip Evergood — who is considered an important W.P.A. muralist and painter — is unfinished, and his grave is unfinished as well, lacking a stone.

    Some of the artists who do have monuments have been accorded gravestones that reference their works. For example, the burial plot of William Holbrook Beard, the painter of humanlike animals, is adorned by a bronze bear.

    Though much of the collection is centered in the 19th-century heyday of the cemetery, it has some relatively recent works, including “Coney Island Beach,” a 1963 work by Vestie Davis (which cost $4,750). But Mr. Moylan said that the cemetery could never afford the multimillion-dollar works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was interred in the cemetery after he died in 1988 (his mother, Matilda, was recently buried in the artist’s plot).

    But works new and old have proved difficult to house: the collection temporarily populates the walls of Green-Wood’s crowded administrative offices, and some recently arrived paintings are stacked amid file cabinets and desks. Mr. Moylan is planning to establish a permanent gallery space at the cemetery that will display these and future acquired works.

    Ultimately, a mapped, self-guided tour of the artists’ graves is planned, and Mr. Moylan hopes to publish a book celebrating their works.

    Assembling the art collection, said Mr. Richman, “has taught us much about the history of the cemetery.” For the most part, the cemetery’s massive 22-by-16-inch, hand-inscribed burial ledgers did not list the occupations of occupants. And so, identifying artists has required intensive research and, occasionally, luck.

    “We just found another painter on Tuesday,” Mr. Richman said referring to Mary McComb, daughter of an architect of City Hall, John McComb Jr. She painted a well-known image of the Montauk Point Lighthouse, “which her father also designed,” said Mr. Richman, who discovered that she is in the McComb burial plot. “So our process of discovery keeps unfolding.”

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  7. #22

    Default New book traces Green-Wood's ghostly past

    This eerie Angel of Death keeps watch over the grave of former Brooklyn mayor Charles Schieren.

    By Lauren Johnston

    When it comes to ghostly haunts, Green-Wood Cemetery has an esteemed list of resident spirits. The gravesites of notable New Yorkers cover its 478 acres, including the likes of Peter Cooper, Charles Pfizer, “Boss” Tweed and artist Jean Michel Basquiat.

    We talked to author Alexandra Kathryn Mosca, who is also a funeral director, about her new pictorial book, “Green-Wood Cemetery,” to learn more about its haunted history.

    Q: What was your most surprising discovery while researching?
    A: One of the people I found was Dr. August Renouard. When I was coming up as a funeral director, the old-timers would talk about him. He was considered the father of modern day embalming. To a funeral director, that was significant.

    Q: Which gravesite is the spookiest?
    A: There is a really strange gravestone. It belonged to [former mayor of Brooklyn] Charles Schieren. The mayor and his wife died a few days apart, they both had pneumonia. The monument is the angel of death. I think it’s one of the eeriest.

    Q: You’ve written about many cemeteries, what makes Green-Wood special?
    A: It’s almost a history – certainly of New York, but also of America as well. The people [buried there] are nationally known, names like Steinway, FAO Schwarz. Everybody knows these names.

    Q: What new things will New Yorkers learn about Green-Wood from your book?
    A: These names like [Horace] Greeley, Peter Cooper, we learn these as children and over the years, the accomplishments of these people become vague. I think this reacquaints them with the history of New York.

    Q: How much time did you spend exploring the cemetery while writing?
    A: I went there several days a week and walked the grounds and it was so amazing, even in the winter. You would just turn a corner and discover something.

    Mosca will lead a cemetery trolley tour based on her book on Nov. 23 at 1 p.m., followed by an author Q & A, $20 for the tour, $30 for the tour and a copy of the book. “Green-Wood Cemetery,” Arcadia Publishing, $19.99.

  8. #23

    Default Author Peeks Into Past With Book About Cemetery

    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- There are many ways to learn about history. You could read a textbook, visit a museum or chat with an old-timer. Or, perhaps, you could visit a cemetery.

    The latter would be Alexandra Kathryn Mosca's suggestion. In her new book, "Green-Wood Cemetery," part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, the writer and funeral director delves into the history and famous names buried in the Brooklyn cemetery.
    The cemetery also is the resting place of many Staten Islanders and their family members, some of whom made the move over the bridge from Brooklyn.

    "What I hope is that it reacquaints people with the history of the city and with America," said Ms. Mosca, a Sea Cliff, L.I., resident who directs a funeral home in Queens. "The people [buried there] are so compelling and interesting, they have given so much to society."
    The famous names buried within the 478-acre cemetery established in 1838 include former Gov. DeWitt Clinton; William Magear "Boss" Tweed, a corrupt New York state senator who died in jail; George Tilyou, founder of Coney Island's Steeplechase Park, and Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum, a Civil War veteran who represented New York in the House of Representatives.
    There also are titans of industries buried within: William Colgate, who started what is now Colgate-Palmolive; Juan Trippe, founder of Pan American World Airways; Frederick August Otto Schwarz, founder of toy store FAO Schwarz; German chemist Charles Pfizer, who started the pharmaceutical company, and Henry Steinway, the piano maker.
    "I love history and I think many people do and it's a fun way to learn about it," Ms. Mosca said of the cemetery.

    The book, which features numerous historical photos, was published in September and took Ms. Mosca about nine months to complete. During that time, she made countless visits to Green-Wood and did much research. "Once I got through reading about it, the subject matter was so compelling, I just kept reading," she said.

    This is Ms. Mosca's second book. Her first, "Grave Undertakings" (New Horizon Press), chronicles her career as a woman in the funeral industry. She is currently working on her next untitled book, a fiction piece about a reluctant funeral director who finds herself involved in a murder mystery. There's scene set at Green-Wood and the murder victim is from Staten Island.

    She also contributes to American Cemetery and American Funeral Director magazines and has written articles on funerals of the famous, including Margaret Mitchell, Eva Peron, Marilyn Monroe and John Gotti.
    Alexandra Mosca will sign copies of the book at the Barnes and Nobles in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 267 Seventh Ave., on Thursday at 7 p.m.

  9. #24
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    Seeking a Statue Fit for a Star … Again


    Green-Wood Cemetery is considering five statues as a replacement for one that disappeared in the 1940s or ’50s, below.
    Above, one of the possibilities, by Tuck Langland of Granger, Ind.

    Louis Moreau Gottschalk was the 19th century’s idea of a rock star: a composer and performer so famous that when he went on tour, he took two pianos with him, size extra long. He called them “my mastodons.”

    Gottschalk, who had grown up in New Orleans, died at age 40. He collapsed onstage while conducting 600 musicians in a performance of a work of his own, “Morte,” or “She Is Dead.” Celebrity that he was, he was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, which was the No. 2 tourist destination in New York State in those days, after Niagara Falls. His tomb was topped with a five-foot-tall statue, “The Angel of Music.”

    The statue disappeared in the 1940s or ’50s — no one at Green-Wood is certain when. Nor does anyone know what happened to it. The cemetery’s records provide no explanation.

    Did thieves make off with it? It weighed two tons, so probably not. Was it struck and pulverized by lightning? It was stone, so that seems far-fetched.

    But lightning does figure in another theory. Richard Moylan, Green-Wood’s president, suspects the statue was destroyed by a falling tree limb. And it was the limb that had been hit by the lightning,“unromantic as it sounds,” he said.

    The Green-Wood Historic Fund, a nonprofit arm of the cemetery whose mission is to restore and preserve the history within Green-Wood’s grounds, began trying to recreate the statue in June. Working with the National Sculpture Society, Green-Wood approached five artists, who made models for a new statue.

    Green-Wood also lined up a panel of judges that includes Arnold L. Lehman, the director of the Brooklyn Museum; Danny Simmons, a painter and interim chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts; S. Frederick Starr, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who wrote a biography of Gottschalk; Thayer Tolles, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum; and the actor John Turturro.

    “Since we didn’t have really detailed photos of it, we didn’t think it appropriate for someone to try to replicate it,” Mr. Moylan said. “We used words like ‘in the spirit of the original.’ ”

    Mr. Moylan dodged the sculptors’ questions about how closely their statues should resemble the original. He said one artist, Tuck Langland of Granger, Ind., called to ask if he had to keep the lyre that was at the angel’s feet in the original statue.

    “I said: ‘Tuck, first of all, I’m not on the panel, so I really shouldn’t answer the question, and it’s really up to you. Personally, I might miss it,’ ” Mr. Moylan recalled. “He said: ‘It’s not in the right place. It doesn’t work.’ I said, ‘Take it out, then,’ and as you can see from the photo, he moved it.”

  10. #25
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    Walkabout: Death and the Green Wood

    Gate at Green-Wood Cemetery, as seen from inside.
    Greenwood Heights, Richard Upjohn, architect 1861.

    Since yesterday was Memorial Day, it seems a good time to look at one of Brooklyn's treasures – Green-Wood Cemetery. For Brooklyn's Victorian forbearers, and to this day, a resting place in Green-Wood was the final aspiration. Credit for the idea of Green-Wood goes to Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, one of mid-19th century Brooklyn's most influential men and a member of one of Brooklyn's oldest and richest families. He was inspired by Cambridge, Massachusetts' own Mount Auburn, America's first naturalistic park-like cemetery, which, in turn, was inspired by English park cemeteries. His notes and papers for the planning of Green-Wood are today housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The basic layout of the park was designed by David Bates Douglass, drawing his own inspiration from famed landscape designer Alexander Jackson Dowling's “Picturesque” landscaping, which created naturalistic and visually pleasing tableaux from the land, especially important within a growing urban landscape. This is not just a cemetery, it is a burial park. The Cemetery was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

    Continue reading "Walkabout: Death and the Green Wood"

  11. #26
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    Walkabout: Historic Green-Wood, Part 2

    1792 sketch of Battle Pass, now part of Green-Wood Cemetery.
    This hill, the highest point in Brooklyn, was the site of the some of the
    fiercest fighting in the Battle of Brooklyn, in August, 1776. (Wikipedia)

    Before there was a Green-Wood Cemetery, there was the land. The area we now call Greenwood Heights, including Green-Wood, is filled with hills, valleys, and streams due to the deposits of the glacier that scraped its way to the sea, creating Long Island seventeen thousand years ago. It left behind some significant hills, along the glacial moraine, including what is called Battle Pass, Prospect Hill, and smaller hills stretching from Greenwood Heights over to Crown Heights. As Dutch, and then English settlers moved into the area, some of the hills and valleys became farmland, with marshy bogs in what is now parts of Prospect Park and Gowanus, while most of the area remained virgin wooded forest. This was to be the site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Brooklyn, in August of 1776.

    Continue reading "Walkabout: Historic Green-Wood, Part 2"

  12. #27
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    Many Cemeteries Damaged, but Green-Wood Bore the Brunt of the Storm


    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    Obelisks that stood upright for generations at Green-Wood Cemetery, perpetuating the memories of the Strong and Hallett and Wallace families, hit the ground at crazy angles. The angel guarding the Lloyd family plot lost its head, an arm and the tip of its wing. The headstone of an 18-year-old boy, overturned by a falling pin oak, rests upside down beside its pedestal. “Thy will be done,” it says.

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
    The Flagg monument in Green-Wood Cemetery has
    seemed to defy gravity since it was hit by a falling oak.

    Hurricane Sandy ran roughly through cemeteries around New York City, but it devastated Green-Wood in Brooklyn, a designated National Historic Landmark. High winds destroyed or badly damaged at least 292 of the mature trees that lend so much beauty to the picturesque grounds — oak, maple, beech, linden, pine, tulip, cherry and Bradford pear.

    Because many trees and branches remain where they fell on Oct. 29, cemetery officials have not had the chance to assess how many monuments, headstones and ornamental fences were crushed, shattered or overturned. Certainly, dozens were damaged.

    Operators of other major cemeteries in New York — including Woodlawn in the Bronx, Trinity in Manhattan, Calvary in Queens, and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn and Queens — also reported downed trees and some structural damage, but nothing of the magnitude of Green-Wood’s loss.

    Richard J. Moylan, the president of Green-Wood, said he had never witnessed such destruction in his 40 years at the cemetery. He estimated the clean-up would cost at least $500,000. Much of the clearing work is being performed by the cemetery’s own grounds crews, who are working six-day weeks. Mr. Moylan said he did not know yet how he would pay all the recovery costs.

    The storm apparently spared the resting places of Green-Wood’s most famous occupants — Leonard Bernstein, Louis Comfort Tiffany and William M. Tweed among them — though a falling wild cherry came close to the grave of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and a beech fell to earth not far from the grave of William Poole, the 19th-century gang leader better known as Bill the Butcher.

    A palisade of pin oaks along a cemetery road called Cypress Avenue proved especially vulnerable. They stood at the base of the terminal moraine, a glacial ridge that runs like a spine through Long Island, and were completely exposed.

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
    Remains of a pin oak on Cypress Avenue.

    “The wind just seems to have had free rein in the flat area,” said Art Presson, the superintendent of grounds operations at Green-Wood, as he took Mr. Moylan on a four-hour inspection tour last Tuesday. (With shoulders slumped as he took in the wreckage, Mr. Moylan managed a thin smile and said, “This is why I don’t leave the office.”)

    Green-Wood’s historical counterpart in the Bronx, Woodlawn Cemetery, lost 35 trees, most poignantly an enormous pendant silver linden near the Jerome Avenue entrance. Twenty-five trees lost major limbs. Susan Olsen, the director of historical resources, said that one obelisk was shattered and one statue was broken in half.

    Cypress Hills Cemetery, on the Brooklyn-Queens line, lost about a dozen trees. Thirty or more trees suffered significant limb damage. Frank Lally, the office manager, said it appeared that no monuments were seriously damaged.

    An almost identical report came from Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan: a dozen trees lost and no significant damage to monuments. Linda Hanick, the chief spokeswoman for Trinity Church at the head of Wall Street, which runs the uptown cemetery, said 13 trees were seriously damaged.

    Joseph Zwilling, the chief spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said that all four archdiocesan cemeteries in New York City and Westchester and Rockland Counties, including Calvary in Queens, had fallen trees and damaged headstones.

    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
    Richard J. Moylan, the president of Green-Wood Cemetery, inspecting a
    fallen beech on Landscape Avenue that took down an obelisk in turn.

    As for meeting clean-up and restoration costs, Mr. Moylan said, “Unfortunately, we do not believe there are many options.” Insurance proceeds, if any, will be minimal, he said. A newly acquired wood chipper is being carried as an advance against next year’s capital budget.

    “The monuments are legally not ours, so we do not have an insurable interest,” Mr. Moylan said. “Yet we feel we have a moral obligation to make the repairs as best as possible.” He and Ms. Olsen, at Woodlawn, said they were likely to take advantage of professional help offered by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

    “Some private donors have already made some small contributions,” Mr. Moylan said, “but with the amount of suffering out there, we have not made much of an effort to solicit funds. In fact, we have been assisting a local synagogue and a local church in transporting food and supplies to hard-hit neighborhoods.”

    If there is good news, it is that Green-Wood’s 478 acres are so rich in natural and architectural treasures that many vistas were left untouched or scarcely disturbed. About 7,700 trees came through, including delicate-looking willows and Japanese maples. New trees are being planted constantly.

    But there is no denying the cumulative and disheartening effect of recent storms, including the October 2011 snowstorm that burdened trees with heavy snow while they were still in leaf.
    “The last three years have been one weather event after the next, world-gone-mad kind of stuff,” Mr. Presson said. “By far, this was the worse.”

  13. #28


    "Little Lucey"

    That the management of Woodlawn said they have a moral obligation to take care of things is heartening, I'm sure Greenwood will do the same. There are some families though that have all died off and have no descendants left to pick up the slack, which is sad. After this and other articles make the rounds, I'm sure donations will pick up.

  14. #29
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    Inside this Brooklyn hidden gem is another hidden visual delight; The Greenwood Chapel: a concise construct (seats ~50-75) of Beaux-Arts stonework and gorgeous stain glass so impressive it has been utilized several times as a wedding chapel. The Grand Entrance adds to the charm. Unfortunately not all my pics could load but if you cannot visit check out some of the pictures online --just sublime.

  15. #30
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    In 1891, Angelina Crane made public bequest of $53,000 to New York City to erect a drinking fountain in her honor. Despite contest from heirs, Ms. Crane’s wish was finally upheld by the courts, and mayor George B. McClellan commissioned Frederick William MacMonnies to design a monument that would stand in City Hall Park. The Piccirilli brothers (who also executed the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial,) carved the stone.
    Although the commission and intended location must have induced MacMonnies to honor the ideals of public service, he apparently had considerable decision-making power over the subject and execution. In his own words,
    I had plenty of time and all kinds of ideas. I thought at first I would make a city of New York, a female figure, a creature who was enthroned, and waters and rivers at the side, etc., and then that did not seem to appeal to me, and then I finally thought as I got nearer and nearer, of this idea of local dignity, the genie of the spot—so I thought I would make Civic Virtue.
    Although MacMonnies is most commonly associated with the Beaux Arts school, Triumph of Civic Virtue sports a number of features reflect a more purely classical style. The lilt in the man’s stance hearkens back to Michaelangelo’s “David,” for example. “Civic Virtue’s” musculature contains a similar detail and proportion to that of the Farnese Hercules. The female figures of Vice and Corruption hearken back to demigods and monsters of Greek myth.
    The model for the male has been claimed to be both the famous bodybuilder Charles Atlas, and alternatively George Lorz, an exceptionally well-built fireman from Engine Co. 8. The mermaid models have been identified as Helen Geary, a magazine cover girl, and Mabel Foth, a New Jersey housewife, (both of whom allegedly branded the statue’s critics “nuts”).
    Even before the statue’s completion, leading up to its 1922 dedication, officials at City Hall had allegedly begun receiving complaints about the nature of the depiction of a man over two women. Depending on the source one follows, objections were lodged by the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the National League of Women Voters. Feminist groups had begun to be taken more seriously at the time in general, after their suffrage victory with the passage of the Ninetheenth Amendment.
    But MacMonnies mused upon a much deeper source of the discontent, rooted deep in Western culture:
    Can it be, that the women are angry because some man finally found the strength to resist temptation? In most instances of romantic sculpture, we have the man succumbing to the temptress. I think women should be pleased when strength is found to withstand their wonderful wiles. Antiquity is all the other way.
    Michele Bogart, an art historian and authority on the Triumph of Civic Virtue, notes that MacMonnies’ depictions of women in public works were already controversial. In her words, his “conflation of the public (municipal) and the personal (psychological) disturbed many people.”
    Indeed, in 1894 MacMonnies (an American expatriate who spent much of his life in France,) had travelled back to the United States to dedicate another work, the Bacchante with Infant Faun to the Boston Public Library. It was a gesture of personal gratitude toward its architect Charles Follen McKim.

    Bacchante and Infant Faun

    As with Triumph of Civic Virtue, special interest groups who found the imagery highly offensive to their sensibilities spoke out. McKim was not stalwart against political pressure, and in turn presented it to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has since become enormously popular, with numerous casts have since made for other museums.
    The case of Triumph of Civic Virtue however, took a different turn. New York Mayor John F. Hylan, who probably was not pleased to bear responsibility for the decision made by the city’s Art Commission, held a hearing about its future with the Board of Estimate. Aside from the women’s groups, the mayor (who was probably keen not to lose the women’s vote) and an art professor testified in opposition, claiming the statue was not in keeping the architectural style of City Hall. Supporters included president of the National Association of Women Sculptors and Painters who pronounced Civic Virtue quite brilliant, and a professor who said City Hall was Italian Renaissance, not Colonial, and in fact the Florentine-style statue was very fitting for the site. The board voted to install Civic Virtue as planned and leave him there for two weeks while the public voted in daily City Hall balloting whether to keep him. The results of this vote were not reported.
    It was mayor Fiorello La Guardia who ultimately effected the statue’s removal from City Hall Park. Many sources cite, correctly, that La Guardia objected to the statue on the ground that he did not enjoy seeing its backside on a daily basis. The urgings of an equally displeased Robert Moses however, would undoubtedly have influenced the decision as well.
    Triumph of Civic Virtue was originally slated to be moved to Long Island City which was the original borough seat, but came to Kew Gardens in 1941 following the relocation of Borough Hall. Queens borough president George Upton Harvey had come into office after his predecessor resigned due to scandal, and the statue was genuinely courted for its timely allegorical value.
    And so the statue remained for 71 years. On its 50th anniversary in 1972, a group from the National Organization of Women protested for the its removal. In 1987 Claire Schulman, Queens’ first female borough president, also called for it to be evicted. Helen Marshall, current sitting borough president as of 2002, has in the past not considered the statue worth actively supporting.
    Throughout the decades, the ravages of weather and time have taken their own toll. The Fine Arts Federation of New York took up a campaign to procure the necessary funding to restore the Triumph of Civic Virtue, seeking both private donors and petitioning the city for abiding by its obligation to maintain public art. The economic downturn of 2008 had a dampening effect on these efforts.
    In February 2011, U.S. representative for the district Anthony Weiner along with New York City councilwoman Julissa Ferreras for Queens’ 21st district (who was then also Chair of the council’s Committee on Women’s Issues) held a joint press conference in which it was announced that the statue was placed up for sale on the online marketplace Craigslist. Brooklyn’s Green-Wood cemetery expressed interest. (Members of MacMonnies’ family – but not he – are buried there.) Weiner’s efforts summarily ceased however, after he became embroiled in a sex scandal that forced his resignation from office.
    As of July of 2012, the statue’s outcome appears to lie in the hands of the New York’s Department of City Administrative Services (DCAS). The statue was fenced in after receiving reports of a serious crack needing repair. DCAS has released a statement denying that any firm plans have yet been made.
    On September 28th, DCAS signed a contract with the Green-Wood cemetery to put the statue in their custodial care under long-term loan. The agency also spent nearly $50,000 of its budget on a custom armature for its transport. The Public Design Commission held a public hearing shortly after Hurricane Sandy on November 13th, 2012 which was not attended by any member of the public aside from Green-Wood representatives to decide upon whether to approve DCAS’ decision. They voted to support the relocation. On December 10th 2012, Civic Virtue was removed from Kew Gardens to the cemetery, without the fountain. The statue has since been given a new rectangular base, cleaned, and treated to prevent further decay at just shy of another $50,000 from DCAS’ budget.
    In conclusion, it’s worth nothing that MacMonnies defended his work in his own words as follows:
    What do I care if all the ignoramuses and quack politicians in New York, together with all the dam-fool women get together to talk about my statue? Let ’em cackle. Let ’em babble. You can’t change the eternal verities that way. From Paris to Patagonia—universal allegory pictures sirens, temptresses, as woman. If you suppress allegory you suppress all intellectual effort. I gather that allegory has long been extinct in City Hall.
    The Politics of Display in Manhattan and Queens : Lessons from the Monument Life Cycle. Bogart, Michele H. Journal of Urban History. 2012 38: 509.

    Maeder, Jay. “Terrible Swift Sword” New York Daily News February 21 2000 Published.
    Last edited by TREPYE; July 30th, 2014 at 12:30 PM.

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