Photo: James Salzano, Courtesy of The New York Landmarks Conservancy
A peaceful oasis for remembrance and commemoration. A leader in environmental stewardship. A center for historic preservation. A dynamic venue for culture and the performing arts.
The Green-Wood Cemetery of the twenty-first-century is all this—and more.
Looking back on 2018, Green-Wood’s role as an important anchor in our local community, and as a visitor destination for people from around the world, grew significantly with the addition of new and exciting initiatives—programs some might find surprising for a cemetery.
As a natural oasis and a Level III Arboretum in the middle of urban Brooklyn, Green-Wood is a very special place. Thousands come here every year to stroll the grounds and enjoy our natural beauty. Our deep commitment to conserving this extraordinary natural environment and to educating the public about it was rewarded with a number of prestigious government grants that enabled us to expand these efforts. The grants underscore the Cemetery’s importance as a vast greenspace in the heart of Brooklyn. As part of our educational undertakings, scattered throughout Green-Wood’s 478 acres are twelve vividly-colored Alive at Green-Wood panels that interpret our remarkable urban landscape. As Green-Wood strengthens our role as guardian of our environment, we hope our ongoing efforts encourage visitors to become advocates as well.
Similarly, Green-Wood’s award-winning preservation and restoration efforts had an impact on the environment—our built environment that is. As home to four New York City Landmarks, each a historic and architectural gem, we take our role as stewards of their care very seriously. With its spectacular copper dome in place and work progressing steadily on intricate glass, wood, and brick work, the Weir Greenhouse inches ever closer to completion. The multi-million-dollar restoration of our Historic Chapel will result in stunning improvements to the masonry and stained glass, as well as an integrally sound structure.
Sharing what we’ve learned over the decades about the importance of preserving Green-Wood’s historic structures is a key mission of our restoration and preservation department. Many of Green-Wood’s fragile nineteenth-century structures have benefitted from the hands-on care they’ve been given by our high school interns, as well as by participants in our intensive ten-week masonry restoration training program. Here, these hard-working men and women gain important experience necessary for employment in the building trades. During this year’s program, the trainees worked to restore the massive nineteenth-century Miller mausoleum—repointing the entire structure.
Just as we are inspiring the next generation of expert masons, Green-Wood has inspired audiences with enthralling artistic performances for more than fifteen years. This proud tradition continued in 2018 with a magnificent breadth of programming. From The Angel’s Share concerts in the Catacombs, to outdoor jazz at twilight, from A Night at Niblo’s Garden, a stunning Victorian inspired extravaganza, to Nightfall with its roving performances and artistic vignettes scattered across the Cemetery, each show played to sold-out audiences and rave reviews. As the New York Classical Review wrote, “Angel’s Share is the most inventive and welcome new concert series on New York’s classical scene.”
Honoring our permanent residents also remained a mainstay of our public programming in 2018. Among hundreds of tours, one stands out. In honor of Black History Month, Green-Wood explored the lives and accomplishments of many prominent nineteenth- and twentieth-century Black New Yorkers whose contributions to the arts, medicine, and business are unparalleled. Green-Wood’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of “permanent resident,” composer Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990), culminated at our annual fundraising gala where we bestowed our highest honor—The DeWitt Clinton Award for Excellence—on the maestro’s three children, Nina, Alexander, and Jamie, for their contributions as ambassadors of music, champions of social justice, and humanitarians.
Green-Wood will continue to expand our public and educational programming while maintaining our founding purpose as a place of memorialization and contemplation. Our compassionate and professional memorial counselors help families through the process of burying their loved ones with dignity. As part of our ongoing death positive programming, we offered small-group discussions called Death Cafés. Inspired by centuries-old European salons, these groups allow participants to share their thoughts on death and dying in a supportive environment where they’re comfortable talking about these universal, but rarely discussed, topics.
Finally, as we look to the future, we are beginning to explore green burials—a more environmentally-sound option with no embalming, metal caskets, vaults, or headstones—and for which interest is growing. Many families now seek a more personalized funeral service and, as we have for 180 years, we plan on continuing to respond in their time of need.
As always, I welcome you to join us and become part of Green-Wood’s past, present, and future.
The summary financial statements of the Cemetery and our 501(c)(3 Green-Wood Historic Fund for 2018 appear in the “Numbers at a Glance” section. 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 29, 2019.