Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shades of the Mackay Mausoleum


On a recent visit to Calvary Cemetery 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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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 annual annuity of $1,000. In his will, Macy stated that “….I cannot trust him with the care or management of my property . …though he is now 29 years of age, he has been entirely supported and maintained by me.” In 1893, R. H. Macy & Co. was acquired by the Straus family, owners of Abraham & Straus. The Straus family is also buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

In 1902, Macy’s flagship store moved to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway, where it remains today. An addition to the property, in 1924, made Macy’s Herald Square the largest store in the world. This was also the first year of what became an annual event, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. An estimated 10,000 people turned out to watch.
It is interesting to note that in 1939, retailers lobbied President Franklin Roosevelt to change the Thanksgiving holiday from the last Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday, in order to extend the Christmas shopping season. Despite opposition from other businesses, Congress passed such a bill, which President Roosevelt signed into law in 1941.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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 circular, family plot in which Roosevelt’s father is also buried.

A month later, Roosevelt entered into a contract for a new home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, to be called Sagamore Hill, in which to raise his daughter. It was completed a year later, and Roosevelt –who remarried and had five more children-- lived in that house until he died in his sleep on January 6, 1919 at the age of 60. He is buried in Youngs Memorial Cemetery, about a mile from his home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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 his mausoleum. The last performance at Niblo's Garden was on March 23, 1895; the property was then purchased and razed by “Sugar King” Henry Havemeyer --also buried in Green-Wood—for a new office building.

Recently, during openhousenewyork(sic) weekend, Green-Wood opened the doors of this historic mausoleum to the public. A rare glimpse inside afforded the opportunity to view the poignant statue of a child. The significance of the small statue is unclear. Does it represent one of Niblo’s children? If anyone has additional information, I hope you will share it with readers of this blog.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Five and Dime Founder: F.W. Woolworth



   Woolworth founder, Frank Winfield Woolworth, is entombed within this imposing, Egyptian-themed mausoleum in        Woodlawn Cemetery. 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 Lancaster PA , 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 Woolworth Building, the former corporate headquarters of the Woolworth Co., was once the tallest building in the world and is both a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark.