Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Tragic Schoolgirl Hattie Engert

When I’m in a cemetery --be it for work or leisure --a monument or mausoleum will catch my eye and I’ll want to learn more about the story behind the family name. Such was the case with the Charles Engert mausoleum in St. John Cemetery. I’ve seen this mausoleum numerous times as it is prominently located across the road from Charles Lucania, and on the way to the Cloister. This week, I stopped to really look. From the look of the structure I felt fairly certain that the family was prominent and one of means. These assumptions were borne out, along with the tragedy which prompted the construction of this mausoleum. Here’s what I learned:

Charles Engert was a Brooklyn-born builder and realtor. Prosperous and well-known, he was a founding member of the Hanover Club. In April of 1899, his only child,16 year old daughter M.J. Henrietta (known as Hattie) died at her school-- Mt. St. Vincent Academy on the Hudson --from spinal meningitis. Hattie had recently returned to school after Easter …

Messrs. Robert Ferdinand Wagner

The Wagner name was well-known in New York politics. Three generations of Wagner men –-all named Robert Ferdinand--served the state and city. Robert F. Wagner, Sr., the family patriarch, served as U.S. Senator from 1927 to 1949. He died in 1953. Wagner’s son, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., was New York City’s 102nd mayor and one of the city’s most popular. Elected to three terms –his tenure was from 1954 to 1965---as mayor, the Yale graduate previously served as Manhattan’s Borough President before winning the mayoral race at the age of 43.
 Wagner died at the age of 80, on February 12, 1991, from bladder cancer. His funeral took place four days later. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 700 mourners, including Governor Mario Cuomo, Mayor David Dinkins and former Mayors Lindsay and Koch listened to a sermon by Cardinal O’ Connor. Opera singer, Robert Merrill, serenaded the congregation with his rendition of Ave Maria and Wagner’s son, Robert F. Wagner III, gave a eulogy. In it, he shared with the audi…

J & C Johnston Co.

The Johnston family mausoleum in Calvary Cemetery is not to be missed. In fact, one would be hard pressed to do so as the structure is massive and prominently situated. Fans of The Godfather may recall seeing it in the funeral scene of Don Corleone.


In the 19th Century, the Johnston brothers --John, Charles & Robert – were the proprietors of the J & C Johnston Dry Goods Store on Broadway in Manhattan. An 1874 article in the New York Times, entitled ‘The Christmas Holidays: At The Dry-Goods Store’ encapsulated the various offerings from NYC merchants. The entry for the J & C Johnston Co. noted that it had “…one of the most extensive silk departments in the city.”

Shades of the Mackay Mausoleum

On a recent visit to CalvaryCemetery in Queens, I saw the Halloran mausoleum  (top photo)  for the first time. Surprisingly, in all my years as a funeral director, I’ve never seen it before. Probably, because I almost never enter the cemetery on Greenpoint Avenue. In any case, I was immediately struck by the similarity to the Mackay family mausoleum, my favorite in Green-Wood. I'm attempting to find out additional information about this structure. In particular, I'm interested in knowing which mausoleum was built first and did they share an architect. If anyone knows, please post here.

R.H.Macy "Way to Shop!"

In honor of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Rowland H. Macy is today’s subject. Born to a Quaker family in New England, Macy found success --and made retail history-- with R.H. Macy & Co., which opened in 1858 in lower Manhattan. First day sales amounted to $11.06.
Macy died in Paris, in 1877, just weeks after traveling to Europe with his family on the advice of his doctors to get some R &R. A New York Times article announcing his death read that: “Laborious work during his best years, brought him, at the age of 56, to a sick bed, suffering of Bright’s disease of the kidneys, of which he died.” However, his funeral did not take place until June 29th. After a religious service in New York City’s Church of the Holy Trinity, attended by family, friends and 300 Macy employees, Macy’s body was taken by special train to the Bronx, for burial in Woodlawn Cemetery . In his will, Macy left the bulk of his estate to his wife and daughter, excluding his son, Rowland Jr., save for an ann…

Bullish on Teddy: Our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt became our nation’s 26th president --and the youngest in US history ---in 1901, after the assassination of President William McKinley. He was elected to a second term on November 8, 1904. He had previously held posts in the US Assembly (the youngest man ever to do so) and as the Governor of NY, elected November 8, 1898. Roosevelt, a Republican, was a prolific writer, conservationist and champion of civil rights.

On Valentine’s Day in 1880 -–the same year he graduated from Harvard-- Roosevelt became engaged to Alice Hathaway Lee. They married in October of that year. Tragedy struck in 1884, when two days after giving birth to their daughter, Alice, Mrs. Roosevelt died from complications of Bright’s disease. That same day, Mrs. Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, the future president’s mother, also died from typhoid fever. Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his diary that night that, “The light has gone out of my life.” The Roosevelt women are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in a circ…

New York City Impresario William B. Niblo

William Niblo was a well-known 19th Century impresario and the proprietor of Niblo’s Garden, a vast entertainment complex. Located in lower Manhattan, Niblo’s Garden boasted a 3,000 seat theatre, restaurant, saloon, hotel, and an outdoor garden. In 1866, a production called The Black Crook debuted and, in time, this long running show came to be viewed by historians as Broadway’s first musical.
When not overseeing theatrical productions by some of the era’s most popular performers, Niblo could often be found tending the garden in front of his mausoleum at Green-Wood Cemetery, where he would also sometimes picnic with friends. This Gothic Revival mausoleum was built for Niblo’s wife Martha, who died in 1851, and overlooks Crescent Water. Niblo once stocked the pond with goldfish which migrated to Green-Wood’s other six (at the time) ponds through their interconnections.

Niblo died in 1878, at the age of 89, and in his will allotted $5,000 to the Green-Wood trustees for the upkeep of hi…

The Five and Dime Founder: F.W. Woolworth

Woolworth founder, Frank Winfield Woolworth, is entombed within this imposing, Egyptian-themed mausoleum in        WoodlawnCemetery. Designed by architect John Russell Pope -- whose designs also include The Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives and Records Administration --the Woolworth mausoleum boasts twin guardian sphinxes, Egyptian carvings, papyrus-styled columns and Bronze doors with figures exchanging an ankh (the Egyptian symbol for life). In 1879, Woolworth opened his first“Five and Ten Cent Store” in Utica, NY. Although that store soon failed, his second store, opened later that year, and located in LancasterPA , was a rousing success. Over the years, more than a thousand F. W. Woolworth Company locations opened around the world. Woolworth died suddenly, in 1919, at the age of 66, in Winfield Hall, his Long Island mansion. Initially, his estate was estimated to be $65,000,000. That amount was later reported to be just under $30,000,000. The WoolworthBuilding, the f…

Legendary Magician and Escape Artist: Harry Houdini

I’ve posted about Harry Houdini (aka Ehrich Weiss) before, but with a new development –-and new photographs--here’s another tribute to the famed magician on the 85th anniversary of his death.
On October 31, 1926, Harry Houdini died in a Detroit hospital from peritonitis, following two surgeries for a burst appendix. He was 52 years old. Houdini’s body was placed in a bronze casket the magician had had specially constructed  for one of his acts and –-it was said --for his eventual burial. Curiously, after Houdini’s last show in Detroit close, his equipment was all shipped back East except for the casket. On November 3rd, Mrs. Beatrice Houdini and three of the magician’s siblings accompanied his body on the train to NYC. There it was met at Grand Central Station by a large group of friends and relatives before being taken to the West End Funeral Chapel.

At 10:30 AM, the next morning, Houdini’s religious service took place at the Elks Club in Manhattan. Two Rabbi’s officiated and Lee Shu…

Stephen Whitney, the "Cotton King"

Another of the fabulous Green-Wood mausoleums open to the public during openhousenewyork weekend, was that of cotton speculator, Stephen Whitney. I had always wanted to see inside, as to me this structure gives the impression of a stone cottage, despite its Gothic architectural style. It looked nothing like I envisoned (a cozy living room with a fireplace, lol), but captured my attention instead because of the symbolism on the crypt covers. At the time of Whitney's death, in 1860, he was reported to be the second richest man in the world. Yet, as the placard above notes, "he was no spender." His heirs had this octagonal-shaped mausoleum built in his honor.

The Credit Rating King: John M. Bradstreet

Ohio lawyer, John M. Bradstreet, founded what later became –in 1933--Dun & Bradstreet.

The Eppig Mausoleum

Leaving St. John Cemetery yesterday, after a funeral, I took a quick shot of this imposing mausoleum. The photo shows no indication of the rainy and gloomy day it was. I’d seen this mausoleum before and was decided to research the family name of Eppig. Turns out, Leonhard Eppig was a Brooklyn brewer who founded Leonhard Eppig's Germania Brewery in Bushwick, Brooklyn in 1866. He was also a major benefactor to the Catholic Church. In fact, because of this, two Brooklyn Churches --both of which served the German Catholic immigrants-- St. Barbara and St. Leonard, were said to be named for Eppig’s children. St. Leonard was founded in 1871 and, in 1884, Franz Leonard, its namesake, was married there. The church closed in 1978 and in 2001 the building was demolished. St. Barbara, built in 1910, was designed by the architectural firm of Helme and Huberty, the firm also responsible for the Central Park boathouse and the Greenpoint Savings Bank, and still serves the community today.

Accordin…

A Peek Inside the Steinway Mausoleum

Over the weekend, Green-Wood Cemetery participated in openhousenewyork (sic). One of the highlights this year was the rare opportunity to see inside some of Green-Wood's most famous mausoleums. Had a fabulous day doing just that under yesterday's picture perfect sky. The Steinway Mausoleum --which houses the remains of Henry Steinway, the piano maker, and many of his family members--is the largest in the cemetery.