A place of honor, solace and sanctuary, Green-Wood Cemetery has as much to offer visitors as it does its permanent residents. A 478-acre arboretum filled with magnificent examples of Victorian architecture and themed mausoleums, marking both history’s notable and notorious, Green-Wood is an open air museum, national landmark and place of wonder. Founded in 1838, a visit here commemorates history and transcends time.
500 25th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11232
Back In The Day
Green-Wood was one of America’s first rural, non-sectarian burial grounds, erected on the site of the Revolutionary War’s pivotal Battle of Brooklyn, led by Gen. George Washington. Sprawling and hauntingly beautiful, Green-Wood captivated its early visitors and soon became an international tourist attraction, rivaled only in the U.S. by Niagara Falls. Filled with glacial ponds, rolling hills and diverse botanical offerings, Green-Wood became a place where people could get lost in nature as well as memories. It also became the nation’s most prestigious burial spot, housing notables such as Boss Tweed, Charles Ebbets, Louis Comfort Tiffany and later, Leonard Bernstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Designed for grandeur, themed statuary often accompany gravesites, such as that of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals founder Henry Bergh, whose pyramid-shaped mausoleum is guarded by massively larger-than-life statues and plaques of horses, cats and dogs.
Curated for the living as well as the dead, Green-Wood preceded both Central and Prospect Parks, becoming a picnicking spot for families, historian’s delight and bird watcher’s dream.
A stroll through Green-Wood astonishes visitors with unending vistas and panoramic views of Brooklyn and Manhattan from its hilltops. A botanic garden unto itself, the acreage is filled with astonishing numbers of tree and plant species, some of which cannot be seen anywhere else in nature, including ancient oaks, linden and tulip trees.
A birder’s paradise, particularly during migration season, the cemetery is home to an astonishing variety of birds and water fowl, including late fall bluebirds and the breathtaking green parrots of Brooklyn. Legend has it that the Argentinian natives may have made their way here after escaping from a broken crate at JFK Airport. The parrots noisily nest in the gothic spires of the cemetery gatehouse and have been a fixture on the grounds for almost 50 years. They are most active in the late fall, when they can be seen hunting in groups for turkey-berries in the tree tops.
A place of history, Green-Wood’s historians have identified the grave sites of 5,000 Civil War heroes on its grounds. It also boasts a gallery of paintings produced by some of the interred, such as the works of Letitia Bonnet Hart, buried here in 1953.
To commemorate its Revolutionary War roots, a statue of Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom and War, was erected and positioned to salute the Statue of Liberty, which can be seen from points within cemetery grounds.
You don’t have to don your walking shoes to enjoy all that Green-Wood has to offer wither. Two-hour, historian-led trolley tours are offered on Wednesdays and Sundays which provide in-depth information on Green-Wood’s botanical and historical offerings.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.