Brooklyn is synonymous with quite a few things; the Cyclone, Coney Island, and of course, delicious food and restaurants. There are endless places to visit, but what many people might not know is there is a great piece of American history sitting on a span of 478 spectacular acres in south Brooklyn, otherwise known as Green-wood Cemetery that’s worth passing through.
Founded in 1838, this historical landmark was one of the first rural cemeteries, and quickly developed a reputation for being one of the most beautiful and prestigious places to be buried. It’s no wonder it is the final resting home for many well-known Civil War generals, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers and inventors.
Walking through the winding paths, visitors will notice names such as Leonard Bernstein, the famous composer, Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, Henry Chadwick, the “Father of Baseball”, and William S. Hart, a silent movie star, to name just a few of Green-wood’s famous residents.
With a quarter million visitors a year, it is second only to Niagara Falls as the nation’s greatest tourist attraction and provides breathtaking views of Manhattan. Built before Central Park [construction on the park began in 1857], Green-wood was part of the rural cemetery movement, which believed in creating cemeteries using landscaping in a park-like setting.
“This is New York City’s first urban greenspace which predates both Central Park and Prospect Park and was the inspiration for both,” says John Connolly, Manager of Public Engagement and Development for Green-wood. “It has a long history as being a place to find solace.”
One of the wonderful things about the cemetery is you can experience all of its beauty and history, even if you do not have a loved one buried there. Green-wood offers insightful tours aboard their historic trolley with guides who will share fascinating stories.
Or if you prefer to stroll the grounds on your own, you can do so as well. Keep in mind when doing so that it’s also where President George Washington and his troops fought the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 across what is now the grounds of Green-wood.
If you’re visiting in the fall, you’ll also be able to purchase the home grown honey from the beehives that are cultivated by Green-wood’s beekeeper.
Along with their rich history, Green-wood is also sought after for use in both television, with shows like “Gotham” and the “Blacklist” filming frequently, to films such as, “The Departed,” “The Girl on the Train,” and “John Wick,” taking advantage of the sprawling grounds.
Designed in 1911, the beautiful limestone chapel is a popular venue for special events and film shoots. “We receive a lot of requests for weddings in the chapel,” says Connolly.
“It’s not just about burying people,” says Connolly. “It’s also about how we can use the space currently.”