Charlotte Canda was a young high society debutante in the 1840’s. On February 3rd, 1845 while coming back from her 17th birthday bash, she was flipped from the horse carriage and died. Her death, and its circumstances shook New York. Charlotte herself designed some of the features of her own tomb in Green-Wood. Her father, who served under Napoleon, utilized some of Charlotte’s elements from the memorial of her aunt which Charlotte helped design a year earlier. Her grave is 17 feet high, 17 feet long, and her statue wearing 17 rose petals circling her head. Her fiance (I know, 17) Charles Albert Jarrett de la Marie killed himself a year later, and buried a few feet away. Not as close as he’d like because it was a suicide.
It’s one of the many stories that visitors came to see at Green-Wood around that time. I hesitate to write “cemetery” because this doesn’t feel like one. But the more I learn about this place the more I understand why it was once NYC’s number one attraction for over 100 years. Before NYC was a tourist friendly city, people came to see destinations like Niagara Falls, and Green-Wood. It was our first major park that inspired the creation of Central and Prospect Park.
Yep, its now officially the strangest food blog in the world. And my Brooklyn tour where we spend about 45 minutes in the cemetery is the oddest food tour out of 206 in NYC (rank #7 but who’s counting). NOLA did this! If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you’d understand my obsession with cemeteries. Important cemeteries around the world like Zagreb, Genoa, Arlington, and even tiny ones like in Getaria, Spain are a good way to connect to local culture, and history. Just like food in a way.
Out of all the famous cemeteries I’ve seen, Green-Wood is still the most striking, and approachable. While its hilly, and massive, it doesnt require a great effort especially if you have a vehicle. But yet, many New Yorkers still havent been or dont even know about it. When I was a kid living in Brooklyn, no one took me there or told me about it. Today its lost in the shuffle of the many attractions NYC has to offer. Considering the lack of crowds, its arguably NYC greatest hidden gem, and the best free museum.
Some of the notable sights at Green-Wood:
Battle Hill – Highest natural point in Brooklyn with striking views, Leonard Bernstein’s grave, and Minerva the roman goddess waving to her cousin Libertas (Statue of Liberty)
Inventors like Steinway, Peter Cooper, Elias Howe (Sewing Machine), Samuel Morse (Telegraph, Morse code), and perhaps the most important inventor of them all, Charles Feltman (Hot Dog)
Controversial statues like Civic Virtue, and James Marion Sims (currently in storage) – gynecology pioneer who experimented on slaves. Green-Wood is where unwelcomed statues go to die.
Henry Chadwick – “Father of Baseball”. Grave adorned with a baseball theme
Statue of 12 yo Drummer Boy – first Brooklyn casualty in the Civil War
Artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Louis Comfort Tiffany. I toured with Tiffany’s relatives once.
Bill the Butcher and William Tweed (Gangs of New York)
Notable pets like the infamous Rex and Fannie Howe. Read about them before visiting.
The grand Nicholas Cage-like Van Ness-Parsons Pyramid. Nick Cage has a similar tomb in Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans. As of this writing, he’s still alive.
The odd looking bear sitting on top William Beard who painted the famous Bulls and Bears in The Market.
DeWitt Clinton grave and statue that once served as the main advertisement for Green-Wood when it stood in front of City Hall.
Four lakes including the mesmerizing Sylvan that make you forget you are in a cemetery.
The church and dramatic main entrance. The nest on top of the gate is home to Argentinian Monk Parrots. One of many bird species residing in Green-Wood.
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