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Two cemeteries

Jan 13, 2009 10:45 AM | 3 comments

The victims of the Brooklyn Bridge Disaster in 1883 mentioned in Leslie's last post had been celebrating "Decoration Day," the holiday we now call Memorial Day.  At a time when the dead of the Civil War lived on in memory, people would visit the borough's cemeteries to lay flowers upon the graves of their loved ones. Decoration Day at Cypress Hills  is the subject of more than one print in our collection of illustrations from the 19th century magazines.

While Green-wood Cemetery has received considerable media attention over recent years in part thanks to the work of its energetic historian, Jeff Richman, the Cemetery of the Evergreens has been overshadowed by its South Brooklyn competitor. The Evergreens has now found a worthy chronicler in the person of John Rousmaniere, whose beautiful new book, Green Oasis in Brooklyn. The Evergreens Cemetery 1849-2008 with photographs by Ken Druse, has arrived unsollicited on my desk (Kittery Point, Maine: Seapoint Books, 2008).

Rousmaniere begins with  a lively account of the events of 1776 on the "Heights of Guana" in the area now covered by the Evergreens.  Engaging writing that ranges through swaths of Brooklyn and world history, coupled with  Druse's beautiful photographs make this a valuable and attractive addition to our collection. Perhaps now the Evergreens will become a destination as popular as Green-wood, we trust with less unhappy results than on that fatal day in 1883.

Channel Thirteen is currently producing an original online video series about hidden and hard-to-access historic places. A new segment on Green-Wood shows interior shots of the catacombs and some of the mausoleums. Here is the link:

As the owner of an unsaleable condominium just a couple of blocks from Green-wood, I find Richman's notion of the catacombs as a condo building for the dead particularly appealing. Perhaps this is a business model I should look into.


1/15/2009 8:47:59 AM #


As in our earlier conversation, I remember only too well our annual High School show, called the Hokey Pokey.  I was a member of the chorus and we sat as a group in the center of the gym stage, toward the back.  On either side were 5 or so chairs where boys, Freshman to Seniors, would open the show with songs, jokes and remarks about the "coloreds".  They were blacked by stage makeup and wore ragged clothes.  And this in Central Maine, about as far Yankee as one could get.  A sad memory indeed.....for the Sixties and beyond.  Thanks for the great and thoughtful article.

linda geaghan

3/2/2009 4:48:03 PM #

Thanks for your comments about my new book, GREEN OASIS IN BROOKLYN -- my first on that endlessly fascinating subject, Brooklyn history. There's a long chapter on Decoration Day, which for almost a century brought Brooklynites by the thousands out to the cemeteries. Through eBay I was able to find many sentimental post cards showing families laying flowers on graves.

John Rousmaniere

3/3/2009 2:13:55 PM #

Thanks for the kind words about GREEN OASIS IN BROOKLYN. They're especially rewarding given that some of my research was conducted in your open stacks and the Brooklyn Collection, in both its cramped old room and its glorious new facility. The BC also provided some important photos.  


John Rousmaniere