I’m known to have quirky taste in just about everything (stop sniggering – and you know who you are!). One thing that I have always loved that many people found beyond quirky was a certain fascination with cemeteries. OK, no, it’s not a fascination – I love cemeteries, so much so that the highlight of a trip to Paris I took a couple of years ago wasn’t the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or even the shopping, but rather visiting the “Cimetière Père-Lachaise”, which played a prominent role in one of my favorite reads, “Le Comte to Monte-Cristo”.
Imagine my pleasure when the following little gem of a tourism article landed in my inbox today:
Weekend in New York: You Can Come and Go. They’re Staying Awhile.
A lot of people live in New York, which is part of what makes the city so great. But it comes with a corollary that’s a bit of a downer: a lot of people die there, too.
Luckily, back in the mid-19th century, someone had the foresight to set aside some future prime real estate for some pretty cool cemeteries, among them Green-Wood in Brooklyn, Woodlawn in the Bronx and Calvary in Queens. They’re all worth a visit, but for different reasons: Green-Wood has the most beautiful grounds, Woodlawn has the most intriguing monuments, and Calvary has the best views.
If you think visiting cemeteries is a bit creepy, you would never have made it as an 1860s tourist. At that time, Green-Wood Cemetery — an early example of the “rural cemetery” movement imported from Europe — had become one of the country’s premier attractions, ranking up there with Niagara Falls. Half a million people visited a year, and that’s just counting the live ones.
In his book “Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery: New York’s Buried Treasure,” Green-Wood’s historian, Jeff Richman, notes that New York at the time had few public parks and little public sculpture, which partly explains the attraction. He also quotes an 1866 article in The New York Times that noted “Green-Wood is as permanently associated with the fame of our city as the Fifth Avenue or the Central Park.”
And that was before so many famous people were buried there, among them F. A. O. Schwarz of toy fame, Samuel Morse of code fame, Charles Ebbets of Dodgers fame, Boss Tweed of corruption fame and Louis Comfort Tiffany of stained glass fame. It was also before the monk parrots were there — in one of the oddest twists of cemetery history, the squawking green guys escaped from a shipment at Kennedy Airport and settled into the ornate towers of the entrance gate, where they squawk still.
Read the rest of the article here.