The Beauty of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn

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Green-Wood Cemetery was built during the rural cemetery movement which took place in the early 1800s as a way of creating park-like cemeteries. It’s older than Prospect Park or Central Park. Its landscape, hills, ornate crypts and tombstones will make your jaw drop. Green-Wood opened on April 18, 1838 and was a hub of tourism. Over half a million people visited per year during it’s heyday! It was the place to be then and the place to be now (plus so many celebrities are buried there), which is why we take you there as one of the stops on our Neighborhood Tour.

 

The entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery is a masterpiece.

The beautiful, 106-foot tall Gothic revival gates are made of brownstone and, supposedly, was one of the first places brownstone first appeared in Brooklyn. The entrance has been a New York City landmark since 1966.

Green-Wood Cemetery entrance

(photo: Courtesy Creative Commons Flickr – mementosis)

Brownstone played an important role in Brooklyn history.

Brownstone came over to New York in the ballast of ships in the 1800s and Brooklynites instantly fell in love with the durable stones, so started using it to build homes. Today you can find entire neighborhoods made of brownstone. In fact, neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights in the photo below and Park Slope, both neighborhoods that we feature on our tour, are known as “Brownstone Brooklyn”.

brownstone brooklyn

 

Anyone who is anyone is buried at beautiful Green-Wood.

From Jean Michel Basquiat to Leonard Bernstein, the list of famous occupants is impressive!

basquiat grave

 

Did you know Green-Wood Cemetery is the site of the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War?

The Battle of Brooklyn, also known as the Battle of Long Island, took place on Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery on August 27, 1776 between American and British troops. Essentially it was the start of the Revolutionary War and where a large part of the battle took place because of the area’s height (more on that later). In 1920, Charles Higgins who was the creator of Higgins’ India Ink and was buried at Green-Wood, had a monument built to be placed in front of his mausoleum to commemorate Battle Hill. It included Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, which you can see in the photo below. He requested that she be placed at the top of BattleHill and positioned in a way that she’s actually waving to her sister, The Statue of Liberty.

Minerva Battle Hill Green Wood

 

Green-Wood Cemetery is officially the highest point in elevation in Brooklyn.

Standing at 220 feet tall, Battle Hill is the highest natural point in Brooklyn. It was formed during the last glacial period and is part of the Harbor Hill Moraine. In geologic terms, a moraine is simply the pile up of rocks and debris at the end of a glacier.

Battle hill brooklyn

(photo: WallyG/Flickr)

The Historic Chapel at Green-Wood will blow your mind.

It was designed by the team of Warren & Westmore who also designed Grand Central Station. Its beauty shines in the dome top, stained-glass windows and stunning detail. Stepping inside and seeing it up close is always one of everyone’s favorite parts of our tour.

chapel green wood cemetery

(photo: Kelly Nunn Portrait Art)

The Civil War Project identified thousands of Civil War soldiers buried at Green-Wood.

In the late 1800s, Green-Wood buried Civil War veterans for free. The Civil War Project was funded by the government and started in 2002 to honor and identify those veterans. Many of their headstones had suffered the ravages of time and either were damaged, sunk into the ground or their markers erased. In total, over 5,000 soldiers were identified and new headstones were placed in front of the original ones.

Green Wood cemetery soldiers

 

Everyone loves a good story and the one about the Prentiss Brothers is something else.

The Prentiss brothers both fought in the Civil War, one for the North and the other for the South. The brothers fought against each other on the assault on Petersburg and both were injured. They were reunited at the field hospital where they were reunited. They were treated by the one and only Brooklyn resident Walt Whitman who volunteered as a nurse during the Civil War. Both succumbed to their injuries shortly after and are now buried side by side at Green-Wood.

prentiss brothers green wood

 

Valley Water is one of four glacial ponds in the cemetery.

Valley Water is one of four bodies of water in the cemetery which were also formed by glaciers. It’s surrounded by trees, statues, mausoleums and has perennial lily pads that appear every Spring. It’s also a great place for bird watching as it attracts cormorants, egrets and swans who make their home in Green-Wood.

valley water green-wood

 

 

As you can tell Green-Wood Cemetery is the place to be seen, dead or alive, which is why we take you there on our Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour. Hop on the bus and experience Green-Wood for yourself!

 

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