The restoration of the New York City landmark, the 1895 Weir Greenhouse, is nearly complete. This space will become our visitors and welcome center as well as contain exhibition space. We are hopeful to begin construction in 2018 on the new building, adjacent to the greenhouse, that will afford us additional exhibit and archive space, as well as house our executive and Historic Fund staff. We are fortunate to have commitments of over $3.5 million in grants for the greenhouse restoration and are thrilled to have received a $1 million gift from Robert and Elizabeth Rohn Jeffe for an Archives Center in the new building.
In 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission revisited a list of 95 properties on which no action had been taken. Some had been on the list for 50 years. In 1981, the Commission held hearings with the goal of designating the entire Green-Wood Cemetery a New York City Landmark. We opposed and the Commission decided to take no action, which placed us on the list that grew to 95.
In early 2016, a hearing was held to move Green-Wood from the list. We once again opposed designation and were supported by many preservationists. As a very active cemetery acting as good stewards, we felt designation was inappropriate and unnecessary. We agreed on a compromise with the Commission allowing the entire cemetery to be removed from the list. On April 12, 2016 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated our Historic Chapel, designed by Warren & Wetmore and the residence and gate house at the Fort Hamilton Entrance, designed by Richard Upjohn & Son, New York City Landmarks. The New York City Council approved these designations on July 14, 2016.
We continue to offer a wide range of events on the grounds and in our historic Chapel, including weddings, exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings, lectures and book signings. Among our most in-demand events in 2016 was the Architects in Permanent Residence walking tour paying homage to the 19th-century architectural wonders by famed American architects interred at Green-Wood. And just before millions of Americans stepped into the voting booth for the 2016 presidential election, we introduced New Yorkers to almost a dozen failed presidential candidates – all permanent residents – through a sold-out trolley tour and a great New York Times story. The year also ushered in the launch of a fascinating lecture series on cremation led by death educator Amy Cunningham.
For four weeks in June, we presented “The Great American Casket Company,” a sold-out, immersive theater exploration of life, legacy and death created exclusively by BREAD Arts Collective for Green-Wood Cemetery. On a lighter note, Green-Wood’s second honey harvest was another great success thanks to local beekeeper Davin Larson and our 100,000 resident honeybees. Not only did we sell out our Sweet Hereafter brand of honey in record time, but the project also reinforced Green-Wood’s status and relevance as a vital natural urban landscape.
Green-Wood was also very proud to join in the chorus of American voices calling for an end to gun violence. The message of our social media campaign, coupled with a compelling graphic of a newly dug, empty grave and unmarked tombstone, was simple: “Less business is fine with us. End gun violence NOW.”
The Green-Wood Historic Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization created to raise funds to preserve and maintain monuments of historical, cultural and architectural significance, to advance the public knowledge of Green-Wood and to conduct, sponsor and host educational programs in the community, continues to make great strides forward. The Fund was chosen as the recipient of a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that supports the first and critical planning phase of digitizing the Cemetery’s 179-year-old archives and historic collections. The Arch, our member newsletter, continues to be a source of information for our community. Our 17th annual, free Memorial Day concert with the ISO Symphonic Band under the direction of Brian Worsdale thrilled the large crowd. We were pleased to be joined once again by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Historian, author and documentary scriptwriter Geoffrey C. Ward was the honoree at the ninth annual benefit for The Green-Wood Historic Fund. Geoffrey’s long-time collaborator Ken Burns and director/producer Lynn Novick introduced Mr. Ward. The large crowd, beautiful weather, and our amazing honoree made for a perfect evening. Our tenth annual benefit was held on September 13, 2017. We will tell you all about it in next year’s report.
The summary financial statements of the Cemetery at December 31, 2016 and of the operations for the year then ended appear on the following pages. More detailed statements from which these were abstracted, together with certification of our Certified Public Accountants, were filed with the Division of Cemeteries of the Department of State of the State of New York on March 31, 2017.
Richard J. Moylan has served Green-Wood Cemetery with distinction for more than 45 years. Beginning his Green-Wood career in his teens as a grass cutter, Moylan rose through the ranks and has been president of the Cemetery since 1986, overseeing every aspect of Green-Wood’s operation. He received a B.A. from Hunter College and a Juris Doctor from New York Law School. His pioneering efforts to expand the scope of Green-Wood’s activities have been recognized by the National Sculpture Society and The Fine Arts Federation of New York.