Last Sunday, I took the subway to 25th Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn to walk through and photograph the infamous Green-Wood Cemetery. It was a perfect spring day to wander around in this peaceful and historic resting place. I am one of “those” people who find cemeteries fascinating monuments of local history and Green-Wood has a pedigree of notable burials a mile long. The cemetery is a big beautiful woodland, with rolling hills, meandering paths and man-made lakes inhabited by geese, snowy egrets and other water fowl, and is now a designated National Historic Landmark.
I started my walk in the “public” lots looking for the older grave stones dating from the late 18th century to the 19th century. Worn down over the years to a soft bar-soap dullness, the headstone inscriptions barely visible or completely washed away. One can only assume that the descendants of these people have either died themselves or have moved away and started a new generation far from where their ancestors lie; the forgotten roots to the family tree. Some of these stones are slowly being covered up by weeds, dirt and grasses and will soon be gone from view. I spotted one grave marker that was so old the tree next to it was growing a wooden arm around it, a comforting friend for the years ahead. One slab stone that cracked horizontally and had grass growing between it looked like a giant’s foot print.
The inscriptions that could be read were short and simple some just a name or designation of who they were like mother, father and sadly baby. Quite a few of the tomb stones were cracked or broken lying among newer neighbors like the fire-hydrant shaped stone, obviously for the beloved family dog. A scattering of tiny purple flowers and bright yellow dandelions were growing among the graves adding a gentle warmth and color to an otherwise somber scene.
In the newer plots there were angels, cherubs, saints and gargoyles watching over and protecting all that slept beneath them. As I continued my walk and ventured further into this memorial park, I was momentarily taken aback when I first came upon a certain area below a hill. At first glance, it appeared to be a nice quiet suburban street with homes on sloping green lawns and stairs leading down to the paved street with a street lamp on the corner. Across from them on the lake shore, sat little pastel colored cottages. These homes and cottages were in fact, family crypts and mausoleums! I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t this make an interesting and thrilling midnight walk on All Hallows Eve?”
Two pieces of architecture standing out among the mausoleums, statuary and stones are the main entrance gates, designed by Richard Upjohn. Brownstone Gothic spires flanked by two small buildings resembling a Swiss chalet and an Italian villa. And the newly renovated Chapel, designed by the same architectural firm that designed Grand Central Station, Warren & Wetmore.
Sunday’s visit only covered a fraction of this beautiful sepulcher landmark and I have plans to return in the fall and winter to complete my Green-Wood Cemetery gallery of images.
Note: In the morning as I exited the train station and walked up towards the cemetery, I stopped and took photos of an old relic of a building, the Weir Greenhouse, that happily has been purchased by Green-Wood and will soon become a visitors center. Although, it was enclosed by an impenetrable fence (darn it!) I managed to capture a few goods shots of the octagonal cupola.
Enjoy the slide show: