As reported yesterday, Green-Wood Cemetery opened in 1838. Inspired by Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Green-Wood was landscaped by David Bates Douglass as one the country's first rural cemeteries. Initially, people still preferred to bury their dead in churchyards and on family land, but in 1845 the widow of DeWitt Clinton, one of the most important New Yorkers in our history who died in 1828, had his remains transferred from a graveyard near Albany to Green-Wood. For the rest of the nineteenth century, many of the most famous New Yorkers chose Green-Wood for their final resting place and visitors from across the country made it one of the most visited attractions in the United States.
Green-Wood was also an inspiration for Central Park and it probably wasn't coincidental that the winning proposal put forth by Olmsted and Vaux was called the Greensward Plan, a name that would surely evoke pleasant associations. Green-Wood is 478 acres of rolling hills and valleys, thousands of trees, four lakes, and a myriad of avenues and pathways with names like Glade, Birch, Sassafras, Marigold, Vernal, Jonquil, and Garland.
Besides the landscaping, the cemetery is home to some of the finest sculpture and mausoleums in America. Sometimes called the Pere Lachaise of Brooklyn, there is stunning artistry almost everywhere you turn.
Green-Wood is huge (more than half the size of Central Park) with so many twists and turns and ups and downs, and almost 600,000 buried, you can't expect to see it all. A friend and I were lucky to have had a security guard pick us up while we were walking along Sylvan Lake and took us for a tour in his air-conditioned car, showing us graves and remarkable sculptures we never would have reached on foot.
On Wednesdays, at 1:00, the cemetery offers a tram tour for $15, which can be booked online here. I'm actually planning to take that tour next Wednesday, 09/09/09. Join me!
What family tomb is the largest private mausoleum at Green-Wood? ANSWER AFTER THE JUMP...
Among the literally hundreds and hundreds of famous people resting in peace with DeWitt Clinton are thirty-eight Union generals and two Confederate generals from the Civil War, Henry Ward Beecher, Leonard Bernstein, Peter Cooper, Currier and Ives, Emma Stebbins, Boss Tweed, Jean Michel Basquiat, Fred Ebb, Samuel Morse, Frank Morgan (the actor who played the Wizard of Oz), Horace Greeley, James Gordon Bennett, John La Farge, Louis Comfort Tiffany, William "Bill the Butcher" Poole, Juan Trippe (Pan Am), Joey Gallo, Charles Ebbets, Margaret Sanger, Albert Anastasia, the cast-iron giants James Bogardus and Daniel Badger, and the men who invented the eraser, the sewing machine, the baseball scorecard, the gyroscope, the police uniform, and the safety pin.