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Showing posts from 2009

R.I.P. Joyce Shelby - NY Daily News Reporter

I was among the many New Yorkers who were stunned and saddened to hear of the sudden death, on March 19th, of venerable and popular NY Daily News reporter Joyce Shelby. Her death is a great loss to the media. A seasoned reporter, with a most impressive body of work, Ms. Shelby was also a real lady and easy to talk to. I know this first hand, because she interviewed me back in November about my new Green-Wood Cemetery book, regarding it as a natural for the Brooklyn section. Joyce, a fan of Green-Wood, had written about the cemetery before and regaled me with a funny story about photographing the parrots which have taken up residency there. Naturally, I was looking forward to seeing the article about my book run, but that was not to be. After a couple of postponements, the piece was killed by the Brooklyn bureau chief. Joyce called me with the news - we were both disappointed - and said she would repitch it in the spring. We spoke again in early March, for the last time. Over the years…

Green-Wood's Tranquility Garden

A relatively new addition (2006) to Green-Wood is the Tranquility Garden area which contains over 8,000 niches for cremated remains. Cozy rooms offer seating arrangements where one can reflect. A friend of mine told me he could "sit there for hours". Outside, a large koi pond filled with beautiful fish, calms the senses. This entire area makes one think of cremation in an entirely different way.

DeWitt Clinton

DeWitt Clinton was so many things to New York: Governor, Senator, Mayor and instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal. Clinton also plays a large part in Green-Wood's history as it was Clinton's reburial in Green-Wood -he was originally buried in the Clinton Cemetery in New Britain, NY - that became Green-Wood's first major tourist attraction. This photo shows the exquisitely detailed bas-relief panel from Clinton's monument crafted by Henry Kirke Brown,

Charles Feltman - Inventor of the hot dog

This majestic mausoleum houses the remains of Charles Feltman, credited with "inventing" the hot dog.

In 1871, Feltman opened the Feltman Restaurant and Beer Garden in Coney Island. His establishment proved hugely popular, and on one day alone, Feltman's was said to have served 40,000 hot dogs in just one day. Not only did Feltman know how to feed a hungry crowd, he also had an eye for picking staff, employing Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor as a pianist and singing waiter pair; two men who would go on to achieve their own celebrity. But the most famous alumni of Feltman's, hands down, was Nathan Handwerker, who worked as a roll-cutter and delivery boy. Handwerker went on to open a little hot dog place of his own in Coney Island: Nathan's.

The Mackay Family Mausoleum

One of my favorite sites at Green-Wood is the spectacular Mackay family Mausoleum. This mausoleum is not only an architectural marvel, but inside contains heat, electricity and an altar. The saga of the Mackay family would have rivaled popular1980's television soaps like Dallas and Dynasty. Patriarch John W. Mackay (I can almost see him played by John Forsyth), made his fortune in mining. It was after the sudden death of his son, John Jr., in 1895, that Mackay had this mausoleum built. When Mackay's younger son Clarence, was married, three years later, his parents gifted him with his very own Stanford White estate, Harbor Hill, situated on Long Island's "Gold Coast". Years later, Mackay's daughter, Ellin, would marry (against her father's wishes) world-renowned composer Irving Berlin.

Henry Evelyn Pierrepont

Often referred to as "The Father of Green-Wood," it was Henry Evelyn Pierrepont's vision and planning that made Green-Wood happen.
Pierrepont's Gothic-Revival, open-air mausoleum was designed by famed architect Richard Upjohn.

One of the most special places in Brooklyn

One of the most special places in Brooklyn is Green-Wood Cemtery. Twenty years ago, I saw it for the first time and thought it to be the most magnificent cemetery I'd ever seen. And, believe me, I had seen a lot of cemeteries in my career as a funeral director. Of course, back then, there was no way of knowing that twenty years later, in 2008, I would do a book about the place. But that's just what I did. After years of profiling noted cemeteries and famous funerals, as a freelance writer, I got the opportunity to delve into the history of the most famous cemetery in America. When I began the project, I knew of many of Green-Wood's famous denizens, but as I continued to research by traversing the grounds and reading all I could about the place and its history, it became a question of winnowing down subjects to include in the book. In fact, if I were to do a Green-Wood Cemetery Part II, III, IV & V, I sill could not possbly include all the stories Green-Wood has to tell…