Category Archives: cemeteries

Chicago Expedition: Graceland Cemetery

I can’t miss an opportunity to see a beautiful old cemetery. On my last day in Chicago, Kat and I walked from her apartment over to Graceland Cemetery, a peaceful place established in 1869.  Its 119 acres are home to a striking collection of statuary and the mausoleums (mausolea?) of many a rich Chicagoan, as well as a coyote. We saw the little animal peeking at us from behind the tombstones, keeping its distance as it loped in the shadows of the trees.

Our visit took us by many interesting graveyard sites, including the above William Kimball monument and this regal knight. The knight is known as “The Crusader” and marks the grave of newspaper publisher Victor Lawson.

There was also this boxed in sculpture of a young lady over the grave of Inez Clarke who died at the age of six. There is a story about a cemetery guard finding the box empty one night, only to see the sculpture back in its case in the morning, supposedly after some wandering.

The Palmer family have their own private Pantheon with soaring columns and imposing tombs.

Then there is the ornate Getty Tomb designed by Louis Sullivan. It’s claimed as the most significant piece of architecture in the cemetery, and, interestingly, at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, a cast of the door was exhibited.

However my favorite grave was Bruce Goff’s. The architect wasn’t even listed on the map I’d pulled up on my phone, but I recognized the blue glass in the distance, instantly remembering Redeemer Lutheran Church where I went to Sunday School in Bartlesville. Goff has many distinctly modern homes and buildings in Oklahoma and taught for a number of years at the University of Oklahoma. His marker was actually designed by one of his students, but it incorporates his prairie gothic style perfectly. It was wonderful to stumble upon the grave of someone I’ve admired for so long, in a completely unexpected place.

Snow in Green-Wood

Civil War graves covered in snow at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Despite warmer weather, the snow is staying around. After a day of temping yesterday, in which I answered about four phone calls and spent the rest of the time reading, I used today’s holiday to get some outdoor air. I went over to Green-Wood Cemetery and walked in icy snow that sometimes came up past my knees.

Pyramid mausoleum in Green-Wood Cemetery.

Thanks to the Brooklyn Museum for tweeting my last entry, which included my visit to their Kiki Smith and Egyptian exhibits. After seeing the exhibit on Egyptian artifacts on death and the afterlife, I was able to note the symbol of Osiris on this mausoleum built for Egyptologist Albert Parsons. Under it are statues of figures from Christianity and a sphinx.

Father, Mother, Husband, Wife

This was my first visit to Green-Wood when I actually saw the monk parrots that live in the grand entrance. There were quite a few and their green and pink feathers stood out against the snow and blue sky.

Minerva and the Altar of Liberty.

I hiked up Battle Hill to the statue of Minerva and the Altar of Liberty, dedicated to the Battle of Long Island. The battle was the first major conflict of the Revolutionary War and was mostly fought around this hill that is now in the cemetery. The hill is also the highest point in Brooklyn and with the winter trees you can see most of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, which Minerva is waving to with her outstretched arm.

Minerva waving to the Statue of Liberty in the harbor.

Here is a view of Minerva gesturing towards the harbor, where the Statue of Liberty returns her gaze. A tattered American flag was draped over her back, while miniature flags were sticking out of the snow around her.

Saint-Michael in Green-Wood.

There were a few other sets of footprints going up and down Battle Hill, although I didn’t see any other walkers during my visit. The only other people I encountered were staring down at me from the tops of columns, and most of them had wings.

Shadows in the snow.

From the cemetery, I walked over to Southside Coffee, which I’d been meaning to visit. The coffee was great, the crowd was incredibly hip, and it’s only a few blocks from my apartment, so I will definitely be back. From there, I went to my new favorite grocery store: Rossman’s. One of their staff members recognized my indecision in selecting a papaya and chose the perfect one from the back of the pile. Seriously, that place is awesome. I get my whole week of produce there for just around $7.

Now I am back to watching the Olympics and thoroughly enjoying the spectacle that is Snowboard Cross. I can’t even imagine going down that course of jumps, let alone with icy trenches everywhere. I’m not so sure about the US Olympic team’s uniforms that appear to be imitating denim jeans and plaid shirts. Maybe this is part of that Urban Woodsmen craze that is taking over NYC.

Green-Wood Cemetery

Goodbye Christmas, see you in 12 months.

It’s been just a day over a week since I flew back to Brooklyn from Oklahoma, but it seems like ages. Maybe because it’s just so hard to imagine being in Oklahoma when I’m in Brooklyn, just as it’s hard to imagine Brooklyn when I’m in Oklahoma. It’s almost like going to another country. I sometimes feel like people are speaking another language here and for the first time in my life I get accused of “having an accent,” even though I’m pretty sure I have the most generic American accent possible. Anyway, I’ve been readjusting to the cold weather walking and getting back in my routine. I’ve actually made myself run every day since Saturday, despite the fact that it was so cold my iPod stopped working. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Pinecones and headstones.

As I mentioned before, my new running route is around the perimeter of Green-Wood Cemetery. However, as jogging isn’t allowed inside the cemetery grounds, I hadn’t been inside until last week. There had been a light dusting of snow, although most of it was gone by the time I went out into the cold. Absolutely no one else was there, probably because it was below freezing and people don’t tend to visit cemeteries on weekday afternoons.

What's wrong lion?

Despite how miserable this lion looks, Green-Wood Cemetery is a lovely place. I recently found out the area I live in is sometimes called Greenwood Heights, referring the its proximity to the cemetery, which is a little more specific than South Park Slope. Green-Wood Cemetery has existed since 1838 and its 478 acres hold around 600,000 departed New Yorkers, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein. It was also the site of the Battle of Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War, which was the first major combat after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Sunset in Green-Wood.

While it’s not as popular with the tourists as it once was, Green-Wood Cemetery still gets its share of visitors. Apparently I missed the colony of monk parakeets that live in the Gothic entrance, descendants of someone’s escaped pet. I took a picture of the gate a while ago, when the grass was greener, that you can see on my flickr.

View of Manhattan from Green-Wood.

From the top of the cemetery, there’s a view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s hard not to notice that the tall, column-style headstones look rather like the skyscrapers.

This Monday, I attended the opening of “Downtown Pix” at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. It’s a really fascinating exhibit of photography from the New York downtown scene from the 1960s to 80s. Tomorrow, my friend Cecilia and her brother are coming for a New York visit, and I’m looking forward to a tour of the best NYC cupcakes.