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Green-Wood Cemetery

About this listing

Beautiful and historic cemetery

Place Details

Borough : Brooklyn
Neighborhood : Sunset Park
Burial Site, Historic Site & Museum

Place Matters Profile

Written by Saskia Kuchnicki for Place Matters and the Fall 2015 Local and Community History course of NYU’s Archives and Public History Program

“You are about, kind reader, to enter and explore a still yet populous Village of the Dead. Through its labyrinths of roads and footpaths- of thicket and lawn- you will need a guide. Take one that will be silent and unobtrusive, and not unintelligent.”
(Cleaveland, Green-wood: A Directory for Visitors,1857)

Sprawling across the highest natural point in Brooklyn, it is no wonder that Green-Wood Cemetery still draws large crowds almost two centuries after its establishment. The cemetery is home to five hundred and seventy thousand ‘permanent’ residents whose headstones and mausoleums are as remarkable as the highly curated sculptures and landscape. Situated in the “wooded heights of Gowanus," the cemetery is nestled in hills carved out by a glacier some twenty thousand years ago. The cemetery’s architects...

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On The Web

Green-Wood Cemetery website

Nominations

Anonymous Nominator

One of the largest and most historic cemeteries in the US, the 478 acre cemetery is the final resting place of such famous individuals as Boss Tweed, Nathaniel Currier, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ebbets...the list is quite long. Magnificent tombstones, memorials and mausoleums. Wonderful place for hikes, and being the highest point in Brooklyn has a great view of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey.

Just visit the cemetery, walk through its grand entrance and you’ll understand what I am talking about. (Feb. 2005)



Harry Matthews

One of the country’s first "garden cemeteries" -- dedicated burial sites outside a churchyard -- Green-Wood is an important precursor of the urban parks movement. When the City Fathers saw folks flocking to picnic on the gravestones of the beautiful garden setting, they realized how important open space is in an increasingly crowded city. Over the years, scores of famous New Yorkers have made Green-Wood their permanent home, often in graves and mausolea of beautiful design. Monuments to Civil War and Revolutionary War veterans dot the grounds. The landscaping features many rare trees and flowering plants; it’s worth visiting for the horticulture alone.

There is literally no place like it. This is one of the few places in Brooklyn that has never been graded: the topography is largely what the first Europeans saw in the 17th century. Even the ponds are natural "kettle ponds," common on glacial terrain. It’s an exceptional link to the past. If it were flattened into building lots (as has occurred in adjacent neighborhoods), we’d know less about the land our forefathers knew.

Green-Wood’s management is working to develop interest and financial support for it as a historic landmark. Tours are operated on a regular basis, historic monuments are being restored, programs of lectures, films, and exhibitions are being organized. And, of course, a "Friends" group has been organized to raise funds for preservation efforts. (Feb. 2010)



Julie Welch

Green-Wood Cemetery is an approximately 500-acre arboretum in Brooklyn. Views of NY harbor from the cemetery’s high points are spectacular. The lanes and dells and majestic specimen trees provide an idyllic setting for a peaceful walk inside the city limits. The history of the land and individuals who are interned there is endlessly fascinating. Their public programming is fantastic and the dramatic gothic archway at the main entrance is filled with green parrots!

The cemetery has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides an oasis of calm for the many open space-starved New Yorkers seeking access to sunlight and nature. The serenity of the place is bar none and visitors are respectful of the land and people who have been laid to rest there.

Luckily this site has remained open to the public throughout the stay-at-home order, and people have been able to social distance there easily due to the size of the site and the fact that they do not allow pets, jogging, or biking in cemetery. It is truly a calm and peaceful sanctuary unlike most of the parks where people are not doing a very good job of social distancing. The cemetery has recently opened all of the entrance points to allow for greater access. This is not usually the case. It would be great if they could keep all the gates open during the week and weekend during normal operating hours. I would miss that aspect if it changes.

(added April 2020)

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