Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Sebago Hike in Green-Wood Cemetery, December 2015

Time for the much delayed trip in the Littlebitback Machine (as opposed to the Wayback Machine) I'd promised last week - work's been very worky, plus I had some tummy problems from chemo round 4 (halfway through, though, and so far not too horrible, and I was recovered enough by Sunday to go for a most enjoyable long walk around Prospect Park, watching the snow slowly turn everything white for the first time this year), so didn't get to putting captions to the photo album until last night. I didn't want to share it without explanations, Tony P. did such a great job of introducing us to a selection of Green-Wood's permanent residents, both illustrious and notorious, that I wanted to include at least a bit of it

A cemetery might seem like a strange destination for a paddling club to go on a winter hike, but Green-Wood is a very unusual and particularly visitable cemetery. I'm posting this at a rather late hour, so to save some time, I'll borrow the explanation I gave to a Facebook friend who wasn't familiar with the place.

Green-Wood Cemetery opened in 1838 in what was at that time a very rural part of Brooklyn. As I understand it, it was unusual for the time in that it was non-sectarian; being the Victorian era, you probably had to be some flavor of Christian, and white, but beyond that their only restriction was that they wouldn't take anyone who'd been executed for a crime or died in jail. It didn't catch on right away because people were more used to being laid to rest among their own denomination, but as I found out in an interesting article I stumbled across while looking for info on the DeWitt Clinton memorial, the operators actually pulled off an odd sort of marketing coup by having Clinton moved there - he'd been such a successful politician, with the Erie Canal and a number of other NY institutions to his credit, but he'd neglected his personal finances and his family hadn't had enough to bury him properly, instead laying him to rest in a vault belonging to friends of the family. 

 Once they had one truly famous and highly-regarded person there, others became more interested, and eventually, for a time, it got to be THE place to be buried. The Victorians were of course noted for their mortuary art, and the monuments and mausoleums are amazing to see. On top of that, they did such a beautiful job of laying the place out that it became a popular place to visit just as a pleasure excursion - in fact on the Green-Wood site's History page they mention that this aspect of the cemetery's popularity was part of the inspiration for the wonderful parks we now have in NYC.

Click here to visit the photo album
click here to read a little more history at Green-Wood's site, and click here to read more about how DeWitt Clinton came to be interred there.

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