Wednesday, October 10, 2007


This weekend, we stepped out into the suspiciously perfect weather that has been relentlessly upon us for the last thirty days, and visited Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

478 hilly acres. Opened in 1840. Many famous New Yorkers here from DeWitt Clinton to Boss Tweed to Lola Montez. Lots of mausolea in a Victorian hodgepodge of monumental styles. Think Pere LaChaise crossed with Central Park.

Luckily, we entered the funeral chapel just as a shaft of sunlight illuminated Jesus’ rising from his tomb. (Like walking past the Bellagio in Las Vegas just as the musical fountains begin to spurt.) Shroud by Christian LaCroix.

At the top of the highest hill, there’s a view of the harbor. A bronze statue of Minerva raises a hand in salute to the Statue of Liberty that you can vaguely see in this photo. C, who knows all the good stuff, told me that the condos built between Minerva and Liberty would have blocked this view. There was an uproar, and the developer was forced to “step back” the top of his building as you can see in the photo so that Minerva would not lose her view.

Some families went a tad overboard in their selection of features. Here, we find that the Masonic Capt. Mathisen and Eliza, his wife, couldn’t seem to make up their minds as to the style of their memorial, finally opting for a little of everything: Greek temple topped with a hilariously oversized winged angel and festooned with hounds and urns and encircled with a granite loop that seems to imply that they had in mind a moat that may have proven impractical.

The best maintained tombs bore small round medallions that said “Perpetual Care”. When selecting a plot, it is always advisable to purchase the perpetual care plan. Here’s what can happen if you don’t go with the perpetual care plan.

We were fascinated by this pyramid-tomb where a big-footed sphinx seems transfixed by the sight of Baby Jesus being held up by Mary. Its bronze door contained zodiac signs in a circle around a crucifix. It is good to have one’s bases covered when entering the next life.

Stumbling about, you find some gorgeous details.
photo by C
photo by C

As is always the case, walking through a cemetery reminds us of how futile are the efforts to secure immortal memory. Stones shift and tumble, names are worn away by weather or simply forgotten, and eventually, our most lasting residue is the rubbish of our daily lives.

Nevertheless, we were pleased to find that our own classically understated future final resting place seems to be reasonably kempt, although the grass could use some attention.


R J Keefe said...

If you guys are going to settle more permanently in McClarendale, you're going to have to stop this outer-borough visiting. No matter how interesting, it is ultra infra-dig.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! And the photos are wonderful. I especially liked Minerva and the Pyramid/Sphinx.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, reminds me of the lovely Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, resting place of Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Marshall Field and some other Chicago greats. Extra points for using the word "mausolea." Hope you boys are doing well!