Green-Wood Cemetery is a 478-acre (193 ha) cemetery in the western portion of Brooklyn, New York City. The cemetery is located between South Slope/Greenwood Heights, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Kensington, and Sunset Park, and lies several blocks southwest of Prospect Park. It is generally bounded by 20th Street to the northeast, Fifth Avenue to the northwest, 36th and 37th Streets to the southwest, Fort Hamilton Parkway to the south, and McDonald Avenue to the east.
NYC Landmark No. 0149, 1197, 1233
|Location||500 25th Street, Brooklyn, New York|
|Area||478 acres (193 ha)|
|Architect||Cemetery: David Bates Douglass|
Gates: Richard M. Upjohn
Chapel: Warren & Wetmore
Weir Greenhouse: G. Curtis Gillespie
|NRHP reference No.||97000228|
|NYCL No.||0149, 1197, 1233|
|Added to NRHP||March 8, 1997|
|Designated NHL||September 20, 2006|
|Designated NYCL||Gates: April 19, 1966|
Weir Greenhouse: April 13, 1982
Fort Hamilton Parkway Gate & Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel: April 12, 2016
Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, in a time of rapid urbanization when churchyards in New York City were becoming overcrowded. Described as "Brooklyn's first public park by default long before Prospect Park was created", Green-Wood Cemetery was so popular that it inspired a competition to design Central Park in Manhattan, as well as Prospect Park nearby.
The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and was made a National Historic Landmark in 2006. In addition, the 25th Street gates, the Weir Greenhouse, and the Fort Hamilton Parkway Gate & Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel were separately designated as city landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission at various times.
Green-Wood's site is characterized by varied topography created by glacial moraines, particularly the Harbor Hill Moraine. Battle Hill (also known as Gowan's Heights), the highest point in Brooklyn, is on cemetery grounds, rising approximately 216 feet (66 m) above sea level. It was the site of an important action during the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776. A Revolutionary War monument by Frederick Ruckstull, Altar to Liberty: Minerva, was erected there in 1920. From this height, the bronze Minerva statue gazes towards the Statue of Liberty across New York Harbor.
Green-Wood was less inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which at the time retained the primarily axial formality of Alexandre Théodore Brongniart's original design, than by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where a cemetery in a naturalistic park-like landscape in the English manner was first established. It has been called "Brooklyn's first public park by default long before Prospect Park was created." The architecture critic Paul Goldberger, quoting The New York Times from 1866, observed that "it is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon the Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the [Central] Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-wood".
Green-Wood Cemetery contains 600,000 graves and 7,000 trees spread out over 478 acres (193 ha). The rolling hills and dales, several ponds, and an on-site chapel provide an environment that still draws visitors. In 2017 it received 280,000 visitors. Though at one point there were numerous gravediggers at Green-Wood, as of 2006 there were just a few gravediggers due to a decrease in the number of burials, as well as the limited amount of space for new burials. Because of this shortage of space, some plots are composed of "stacked" graves in which several family members may be buried atop each other.
Several wooden shelters were also built, including one in a Gothic Revival style, one resembling an Italian villa, and another resembling a Swiss chalet. A descendant colony of monk parakeets that are believed to have escaped their containers while in transit now nests in the spires of the gate, as well as other areas in Brooklyn. In 2008, Green-Wood started to acquire a collection of art pertaining to those buried in the cemetery.
Landscaping and circulation
Green-Wood Cemetery contains numerous landscape features, which in turn are named after terms that evoke a naturalistic scene. These names include Camellia Path, Halcyon Lake, Oaken Bluff, Sylvan Cliff, and Vista Hill. David Bates Douglass, Green-Wood's landscape architect, mostly kept the cemetery's natural landscaping intact. Much of Douglass's plan is still in place with its original plantings and curving-road systems. The original street names and original cast-iron perimeter fence have been retained, but many of the roads have been paved.
The cemetery has been expanded several times. Most of these regions have been landscaped to resemble the original plot, except the area near Fort Hamilton Avenue to the north, which is flatter because it was acquired last.
There are several famous monuments and mausoleums located there, designed in several architectural styles including the Classical, Egyptian, Gothic, and Romanesque styles. In addition, many tombs contain ornate sculptural decoration. The National Register of Historic Places designation subdivides these monuments into four primary categories: those honoring events or professions; those with architectural significance; those whose graves contain people of historical significance; and "monuments of sculptural interest".
Among the first monuments was a statue of DeWitt Clinton, built in 1853. There is also a memorial erected by James Brown, president of Brown Brothers bank and the Collins Line, to the six members of his family lost in the SS Arctic disaster of 1854. This incorporates a sculpture of the ship, half-submerged by the waves, as well as a Civil War Memorial. During the American Civil War, Green-Wood Cemetery created the "Soldiers' Lot" for free veterans' burials; this lot included less than 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land. In 1868–1876, after the war ended, the 35-foot-tall (11 m) Civil War Soldiers' Monument was erected at the highest point in Green-Wood.
Other monuments of note include the Pilots' Monument and the Sea Captain's Monument, each dedicated to a notable person in these respective professions. J. Marion Sims, a monument of gynecologist J. Marion Sims by Ferdinand Freiherr von Miller, is also planned to be installed in Green-Wood; the statue was formerly in Bryant Park and Central Park but was removed from the latter in 2017. Some elaborate monuments honor notable figures, such as William Niblo's Grand Gothic mausoleum, the Steinway & Sons family's Classical mausoleum, Abiel Abbot Low's tomb, and the Lispenard family's Norman-style mausoleum. Numerous other monuments to notable figures exist but are extremely simple in design, such as the tombs of Samuel Morse, William M. Tweed, Lola Montez, Henry Ward Beecher, and Currier and Ives. On the other hand, several monuments commemorate less well-known figures, including a Gothic memorial for 17-year-old Charlotte Canda, and a High Victorian pier designed by William or Edward Potter for their relatives.
The gates were designed by Richard Upjohn in Gothic Revival style. There are four gates in total. Two are city landmarks: the main gate at 25th Street to the northwest, which is closest to South Slope/Greenwood Heights, and Fort Hamilton Parkway to the south, which is in Kensington. Two additional gates exist. One of these, at 20th Street and Ninth Avenue, provides access from the northeast and is in Windsor Terrace. The other, at 34th Street and Fourth Avenue, provides access from the southwest and is located next to Sunset Park and the 36th Street station of the New York City Subway, serving the D, N, and R trains. These gates were developed from the 1840s to the 1860s. A fifth gate at Ninth Avenue and 37th Street no longer exists.
25th Street gate
The main entrance to the cemetery, a double-gate located at 25th Street and Fifth Avenue near its northwestern corner, was built in 1861–65, though the entrance itself opened in 1862. It is composed of Belleville, New Jersey brownstone. The sculptured groups on Nova Scotia limestone panels depicting biblical scenes of death and resurrection from the New Testament including Lazarus, The Widow's Son, and Jesus' Resurrection over the gateways are the work of sculptor John M. Moffitt. In between the two gateways is a clocktower in the Flamboyant style. A cemetery office is located to one side of the gate, while the chapel and reception room are located on opposite side.
Fort Hamilton gate
The Fort Hamilton gate is located at Fort Hamilton Parkway and Macieli Place. Similar to the 25th Street gate, it is made of a double gateway made of brownstone. It is also flanked by two structures, a visitor's lounge and the gatekeeper's residence. The gate was built in 1876 and completed the next year; it was designated as an official New York City landmark in 2016.
To the east of the entrance is the visitor's lounge, a brownstone building. It is a 1+1⁄2-story structure with an entrance located inside a center bay on the west side of the building. The visitor's lounge contains two side bays, each with a porch, as well as restrooms for men and women. The hip roof is made of gray slate with metal ornamentation along the ridge at the top. The roof slopes down toward the perimeter walls of the building, though each of the four sides of the roof is punctuated by dormers with small windows. The corner porches feature stone banisters, and contain four yellow sandstone bas-reliefs sculpted by Moffitt.
The west side of the entrance, also a brownstone structure, contains the gatekeeper's residence, a 3+1⁄2-story structure that is similar in design to the visitor's lounge. Only the center section is 3+1⁄2 stories, while the two pavilions to the west and east are 2+1⁄2 stories. The residence's main entrance is through the eastern pavilion, while there is another pavilion on the western facade. Both pavilions have hip roofs of gray slate, and the second floor contains dormers with windows that project from the hip roof. The central "tower" section contains entrances to both the north and south, as well as windows on the second, third, and attic floors that face north and south. The roof of the central tower contains a stone chimney.
The Green-Wood Cemetery chapel is located near the 25th Street gate. Built in 1911–1913 by Warren and Wetmore, the chapel is located on the site of one of Green-Wood's original ponds. Though it is generally designed in the late Gothic style, its massing is in the Beaux-Arts style. It is made of limestone, and consists of multiple towers, including a central octagonal tower and four octagonal turrets, one at each corner. The chapel contains three levels: ground level, clerestory level, and the second story in the central tower. It is a reduced version of the upper sections of Christopher Wren's Tom Tower at Christ Church College in Oxford.
Plans for the Green-Wood chapel date to shortly after the chapel's establishment, when a "Chapel Hill" was set aside within the cemetery. Though Richard Upjohn submitted plans for such a chapel in 1855, Green-Wood initially voted against such a chapel. A new location was selected near Arbor Water in the first decade of the 20th century, and plans were solicited from three firms in 1909. After Warren and Wetmore were selected, work started in 1911, and the chapel was officially opened in June 1913. The chapel was made a city landmark in 2016.
Founding and construction
Following the founding of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts in 1831, leaders of the cities of New York and Brooklyn began discussing locations to build a cemetery of their own. At the time, over 10,000 people were being buried per year in the two cities. The cemetery was the idea of Henry Evelyn Pierrepont, a Brooklyn social leader. As early as 1832, Pierrepont was considering constructing such a cemetery on a hilly area to the east of Gowanus Bay. Acts of incorporation for "The Greenwood Cemetery" were passed on April 18, 1838, entitling the corporation to a capital of $300,000 and the right to 200 acres (81 ha) of land. On April 11, 1839, a modification to that act was enacted, changing the corporation to a nonprofit organization. Construction started in May 1839 and the first interment was performed on September 5, 1840. At that point, the cemetery commissioners decided to enclose the site with a long picket fence (later replaced with a metal fence in 1860).
David Bates Douglass, Green-Wood's landscape architect, mostly kept the cemetery's natural landscaping intact, but worked on the cemetery until he resigned in 1841. Douglass modeled his two subsequently designed garden cemeteries upon Green-Wood: Albany Rural Cemetery (1845–1846), located in Menands, New York, and Mount Hermon Cemetery (1848), in Quebec City. Initially some 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of roads were paved inside Green-Wood to showcase its natural scenery. The earliest map dating from 1846 indicates that there were originally three ponds in Green-Wood: Sylvan Water, Green-Isle Water, and Arbor Water, all on the western side of the modern cemetery. Initially there were very few burials per year; by 1843, there had been 352 burials total, though the number of burials doubled just in the next year. Throughout the 1840s, several churches were allocated plots in Green-Wood Cemetery These included the Presbyterian, Unitarian, and German Lutheran churches of Brooklyn. By the 1850s, various fauna were being introduced to the cemetery.
After the initial opening of Green-Wood Cemetery, it was expanded multiple times. Originally 175 acres were enclosed, stretching between 21st and 37th Streets from 5th to 9th Avenue. The first additional acquisition in 1847 was for 65 acres (26 ha) at the southwest corner of the cemetery, adjacent to the contemporary border of the city of Brooklyn. Another 85 acres (34 ha) to the east was acquired in 1852 through the annexation of land in the then-separate village of Flatbush. Finally, in 1858 another 23 acres (9.3 ha) was acquired at the southeastern corner of the cemetery grounds. A plot at the southeast corner of the cemetery was purchased in 1863, allowing the commissioners to straighten out that border.
This era was also associated with the construction of other structures. A receiving tomb was installed in 1853, and around the same time, the ponds were cleaned and landscaped. In addition, several gates to the cemetery were added. The main gate at 5th Avenue and 25th Street was built in 1861–65, followed by other entrances near the cemetery's service yard; at 9th Avenue and 20th Street; and at 9th Avenue and 37th Street (later removed). In addition, a gatekeeper's house was installed at the original southern entrance in 1848, the "Thirty Vaults" catacombs in 1854, and a well house in 1855. Furthermore, the paths were paved in the 1860s to allow for easier transport within the cemetery. Several additional ponds were carved out through the 1870s, including Border Water, Dell Water, Crescent Water, Dale Water, and Meadow Water.
At first, 14-by-27-foot (4.3 by 8.2 m) lots were being sold for $100 apiece, and it soon became a frequent place for burials, with 7,000 annual burials and 100,000 graves by the 1860s. To accommodate those who came to the cemetery, a ferry service to the cemetery was established in 1846. Green-Wood became more popular after former governor DeWitt Clinton was disinterred from a cemetery in Albany, the New York state capital, and moved to Green-Wood, where a monument to him was erected in 1853. By the early 1860s it was drawing annual crowds second in size only to Niagara Falls.
At the same time, Prospect Park was being constructed and public streetcar and elevated lines were established across Brooklyn. In particular, the opening of the Fifth Avenue Elevated station at 25th Street, near the main entrance, proved to be a benefit to lot owners in Green-Wood Cemetery. As a result, in 1876, Green-Wood built the Fort Hamilton gate to accommodate the anticipated extra crowds. By the end of the 19th century, several florists, greenhouses, and monument sellers had opened shops near each of the gates. One such structure was the Weir Greenhouse, located across from the 25th Street entrance; that building is now both a National Register of Historic Places listing and a city landmark.
Improvements also continued throughout the late 19th century. In 1871, Border Water was partially eliminated to make extra burial space, and in 1874, the cemetery was slightly expanded to 440 acres (180 ha). Also, an underground drainage system, extra roads, and a permanent stone fence were built through the late 1870s. The cemetery was enlarged again in 1884 to 474 acres (192 ha) via the acquisition of land on the northern border. To prevent the view being marred by the construction of tenements, Green-Wood also purchased lots on the southwest corner. By the 1890s, a reservoir was added atop Mt. Washington, the highest point in the cemetery, while two ponds had been removed. At the turn of the century, an old engine house, stables, and several enclosures were being removed, while waiting rooms and restrooms were added at the southern entrance. During this period, thousands of trees were planted, and roads continued to be graded.
Most famous New Yorkers who died during the second half of the 19th century were buried at Green-Wood. Starting in 1862, free interments were offered to the families of New York soldiers who died in war. In 1868, work started on the installation of the Civil War Soldiers' Monument at the highest point in Green-Wood to commemorate hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who fought in the war. The monument was not dedicated until 1876. On December 5, 1876, the Brooklyn Theater Fire claimed the lives of at least 278 individuals, with some accounts reporting over 300 dead. Out of that total, 103 unidentified victims were interred in a common grave at Green-Wood Cemetery. An obelisk near the main entrance marks the burial site.
Green-Wood has remained non-sectarian, but was generally considered a Christian burial place for white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of good repute. One early regulation was that no one executed for a crime, or even dying in jail, could be buried there. However, the family of infamous political leader "Boss" Tweed managed to circumvent this rule even though he died in the Ludlow Street Jail. The cemetery's chapel was completed in 1913 by Warren and Wetmore, on the site of Arbor Water. By 1916, the cemetery had 325,000 burials.
Modifications to Green-Wood's landscape continued through the 20th century. In 1915, the entrance at 20th Street was realigned to connect with 9th Avenue/Prospect Park West (the entrance there being completed in 1926), and another pond was drained. The landscape was in decline by the late 1910s, but this was followed shortly after by dead-tree removals in the 1920s and a five-year road repaving project began in 1924. Road reconstructions continued through the mid-1930s and demolition of enclosures continued. Notably, the clock tower at the 34th Street entrance was demolished in 1941, and iron fences were removed during World War II for the war effort. The old main entrance was demolished in 1951, and four years later, the first new crematorium in New York City in a half-century was built at Green-Wood, with a columbarium. By the end of the 1950s, another reservoir had been filled for new lots.
More than 1,000 enclosures were removed from 1950 to 1961, the same year that work on a new crematorium began. The columbarium was expanded from 1975 to 1977. However, through the 1970s, vandalism was common at Green-Wood Cemetery. The cemetery was also affected by labor strikes among the gravediggers in 1966, 1973, and 1982. The cemetery also continued to add new structures: the Garden Mausoleum and Community Mausoleum were finished in the late 1980s, and the Hillside Mausoleum was expanded. In addition, in 1994, the north gate was restored and new offices were built. This was followed by the restoration of the chapel in the late 1990s, and it reopened in 2000 after having been closed for four decades.
In 1999, The Green-Wood Historic Fund, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit institution, was created to continue preservation, beautification, educational programs and community outreach as the current "working cemetery" evolves into a Brooklyn cultural institution. The Historic Fund's Civil War Project, an effort to identify and remember Civil War veterans buried at Green-Wood, was created following the rededication ceremony of the Civil War Soldiers' Monument. These early graves had either sunk into the soil, been damaged, or had their markers erased before the monument was restored between 2000 and 2002. Further, construction of the last phase of the Hillside Mausoleum began in 2001, and the same year 50 victims of the September 11 attacks were buried there. By 2009, there was little space for new interments at Green-Wood Cemetery. In December 2010, a memorial was unveiled for the 134 victims of the 1960 New York mid-air collision; the cemetery contains the common grave in which were placed the remains of unidentified victims .
On October 13, 2012, another Angel of Music was installed to replace the one vandalized in 1959, this one made by sculptors Giancarlo Biagi and Jill Burkee, was unveiled to memorialize Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Two weeks later, Hurricane Sandy toppled or damaged at least 292 of the mature trees, 210 gravestones, and 2 mausoleums in the cemetery. The damage was estimated at $500,000. In December 2012 the statue The Triumph of Civic Virtue by Frederick MacMonnies was moved to Green-Wood. In August 2013, in partnership with the Connecticut Society of the Cincinnati, signage in the Battle Hill area of the cemetery was updated to reflect new research on Battle Hill's importance in the Battle of Brooklyn.
Among the burials at the cemetery are six British Commonwealth service personnel whose graves are registered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, three from World War I and three from World War II.
The gates of the cemetery were designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and the Weir Greenhouse, used as a visitor's center, was designated as such in 1982. The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and was granted National Historic Landmark status in 2006 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Fort Hamilton Parkway Gate and the cemetery's chapel were designated as official New York City landmarks in 2016.
- Monument to Miss Charlotte Canda, Battle Avenue by E. & H. T. Anthony
- Vista from the Hillside Mausoleum
- Sylvan Water, a decorative pond
- Annual Battle of Long Island commemoration inside the main Gothic Arch entrance in Green-Wood Cemetery
- European beech tree and mausoleums
- Largest tulip tree in the cemetery
- Large ginkgo tree
- Camperdown elm tree
- Two old sassafras trees
- List of cemeteries in New York
- List of mausoleums
- List of New York City Landmarks
- List of National Historic Landmarks in New York City
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Kings County, New York
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Green-Wood Cemetery, established in 1838, was the largest and most varied of the early American rural cemeteries. Its scale, diverse topography, and intended civic prominence made it the prototype for how a cemetery with Picturesque landscaping could be created in contrast to the rapidly expanding cities of the 19th century. Inspired by Alexander Jackson Downing, the most nationally prominent landscape designer and author in antebellum America, David Bates Douglass conceived the overall plan for the Picturesque landscape, executed with complementary Gothic Revival buildings by Richard Upjohn and his son Richard Michell Upjohn
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Henry Evelyn Pierrepont was known as the "first citizen" of Brooklyn for good reason. He, along with his father Hezekiah B. and mother Anna Maria before him, played a significant role in the planning of Brooklyn as a physical city, its crucial ferry services to New York, and the establishment of Green-Wood Cemetery itself.
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The beautiful Civil War-era gate to Greenwood Cemetery is spectacular in its own right; add vociferous parrots and you've got one of the most sublime, most surreal locales on the planet.
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Returning to engineering and consulting work, Douglass laid out the Albany Rural Cemetery in 1845–46 and the Protestant cemetery in Quebec in 1848, both in the style of Greenwood Cemetery. In August 1848, he moved to Geneva College (now Hobart)...
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- "The Brooklyn Disaster.; One Hundred Victims Buried. an Imposing Funeral Procession One Hundred Bodies Interred in One Grave at Green-Wood Cemetery the Remainder of Murdoch's Body Recovered the Walls of the Burned Theatre in Danger of Being Blown down the Memorial Services to-Day". The New York Times. December 10, 1876. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
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High winds destroyed or badly damaged at least 292 of the mature trees ... He estimated the clean-up would cost at least $500,000....
- Colangelo, Lisa (December 16, 2012). "Triumph of Civic Virtue is moved to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn". New York Daily News. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
- Richman, Jeff (August 27, 2013). "Commemorating the Battle of Brooklyn". Green-Wood Cemetery. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
- CWGC Cemetery Report. Breakdown obtained from casualty record.
- Collins, Glenn (October 2, 2006). "Brooklyn: Cemetery Is Designated a Landmark". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
- "Historic Structures Report: Green-Wood Cemetery" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. August 12, 1983.
- Hurley, Marianne (April 12, 2016). "Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance; Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
- Mosca, Alexandra Kathryn (2008). Green-Wood Cemetery. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5650-5.
- Quennell Rothschild & Partners; Paul Cowie & Associates (February 2007). "Green-Wood Landscape Master Plan: Appendix" (PDF). The Interactive Community of Arboreta.
- Cleveland, Jehemiah (1866). Green-Wood Cemetery: A History from 1838 to 1864. Anderson and Archer.
- Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (1995). The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 509–510. ISBN 0300055366.
- Richman, Jeffrey I. (1998). Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery: New York's Buried Treasure.
- Richman, Jeffrey I. (2007). Final Camping Ground: Civil War Veterans at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, In Their Own Words. ISBN 978-0-9663435-3-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Green-Wood Cemetery.|
- Official website
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Green - Wood Cemetery
- Green-Wood Cemetery at Find a Grave
- Green-Wood Cemetery at Interment.net
- Seasonal and special event pictures of Green-Wood
- Seeking Room for New Graves at Green-Wood, The New York Times
- Video tour of the catacombs and crypts of Green-Wood Cemetery