The phrase “Rest in Peace” takes on a whole new meaning at New York’s prettiest cemeteries. Home to the wealthy, the famous, the well-connected, and, in some cases, the long-forgotten, these areas make for pleasant strolls and nice afternoons. By Jessica Allen.
Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 as a “rural cemetery,” designed to send the departed off into a bucolic haven. Nestled within its 478 acres are ponds, paths, and hills, one of the biggest outdoor collections of 19th- and 20th-century statuary and mausoleums, and 560,000 perpetual residents, including Boss Tweed, Horace Greeley, Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and other significant figures from history, sports, and the worlds of art and entertainment.
The oldest public nonreligious cemetery in New York City, New York Marble Cemetery has 2,080 interments, most of which occurred between 1830 and 1870, all of which are located in below-ground vaults made of solid white Tuckahoe marble. There are no gravestones, no looming statues, no crumbling crosses. You can see the peaceful grounds for yourself via an alley between 41 and 43 Second Avenues, generally on the fourth Sunday of each month from April to October; check the website for specifics.
Located near the top of Manhattan, in Washington Heights, Trinity Cemetery was the site of a battle during the Revolutionary War. Now its tree-lined hills are the final resting places of John James Audubon (who owned the land), Jerry Orbach, several Astors, a son of Charles Dickens, openly gay Mercedes de Acosta (lover of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich), Ed Koch, and Ralph Ellison, as well as many socialites, politicians, and businesspeople.
Like its uptown counterpart, Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, Trinity Churchyard boasts lots of famous folks, including Alexander Hamilton, John Jacob Astor, Horatio Gates, and Robert Fulton, among others. The little cemetery itself rests between the tall buildings, tour buses, and scaffolding of Lower Manhattan, and therein lies its charm: as we search for bargains at Century 21 or jostle along Wall Street, the cemetery reminds us that someday everything will end.
Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx is another so-called rural cemetery. It’s also one of the city’s largest, covering more than 400 acres and containing more than 300,000 graves and mausoleums. Aside from the idyllic rolling hills, the real draw here are the various memorials, designed by such artists and architects as John LaFarge and McKim, Mead & White. Its long-term residents include Herman Melville, Nellie Bly, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ralph Bunche, Robert Moses, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.