My Cemetery Profiles
- Among my profiles for American Cemetery & Cremation magazine: Calvary, Kensico, Gate of Heaven, Green-Wood, Woodlawn, Salem Fields, Ferncliff, Westchester Hills, Moravian, Sleepy Hollow, and Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. Here's an overview of some of those articles.
Founded in 1848 by the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, who purchased 115 acres in an area then known as Blissville, the cemetery was named for the hill in Jerusalem on which Jesus was crucified. Included in the purchase was land belonging to the Alsop family, which was used as a private burial ground. The small Protestant burial ground, within the larger city cemetery, remains intact to this day.
Shortly after its formation, 29-year-old Esther Ennis became Calvary’s first official burial. She was followed, over the years, by Anna Moore Schayer, the first person to pass through Ellis Island; baseball Hall of Famer William “Wee Willy” Keller; and Steve Brodie, who according to urban legend survived a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Over the years, Calvary’s population swelled by outbreaks of cholera and influenza. There were days when Calvary had 250 bodies awaiting burial.
So, it’s little wonder that Calvary's popularity as a burial place was such that 100 years after it began there were already an estimated 1.5 million interments. The sprawling grounds are filled with catholic symbolism, and nods to the resurrection: Christ figures, Virgin Mary statues, angels, and crosses. Exquisite statuary can also be seen, especially in First Calvary, the oldest section of the cemetery. One such statue, an effigy of a young woman named Rose Furno, who died in 1927, stares hauntingly at visitors. Another large statue marks the grave of Florence Scannell, a New York City councilman who was shot in a barroom brawl in 1870. John J. Scannell, New York City’s first fire commissioner, avenged his brother’s murder. They are buried together.
The largest structure on the grounds is St. Callixtus, a Romanesque-style chapel, beneath which there is a chamber for the burial of priests.
The towering dome of the Johnston mausoleum, the second largest structure on the grounds, can be seen from the nearby Brooklyn Queens Expressway. With room for 30 entombments, the mausoleum contains the remains of only six, among them John and Charles Johnston, who along with their brother Robert (buried in Woodlawn) were proprietors of a high-end Manhattan dry goods store, in the 19th century. The dome can also be seen in the background of Don Corleone’ s funeral scene in 1972 film The Godfather.
Today, Approximately 1.8 million people are buried within its four sections, each of which bears the name of one of the ancient catacombs of Rome. First Calvary is known as St. Callixtus; Second Calvary, St. Agnes; Third Calvary, St. Sebastian; and Fourth Calvary, St. Domitilla. First Calvary, is the oldest section of the cemetery, bordered on the north by the Long Island Expressway and on the east the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. They come from diverse backgrounds but are united by a common religion. Among them, New York City Mayors Robert F. Wagner Jr. and John V. Lindsay; Lt. Joseph Petrosino, of New York City’s “Italian Squad,” who was murdered in Sicily while investigating the Mafia; Alfred E. Smith, who served four terms as Governor of New York; and Mob bosses Tommy Lucchese and Joe “the boss” Masseria also take their place in the pantheon of Calvary’s history.
With limited space, graves at Calvary are coveted.
10 Famous Graves of Noted Retailers
There's a reason why New York City is one of the world’s shopping capitals – so many of America's best-known shopping destinations got their start there. Stores like Bloomingdale's, Tiffany's, and F.A.O. Schwarz are all synonymous with high-end shopping, and the final resting places of their founders can be found in some of the city's most notable cemeteries. Some of the retailers are buried in graves that are simple and modest, while others are entombed in mausoleums that are often grand like the stores they created.
Here's a look at the burial sites of ten of America's most notable retailers.
Abraham Abraham – Salem Fields Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Abraham & Straus began as a small dry goods store, in 1865, and quickly became one of New York's most popular department stores. Its flagship store on Fulton Street, in downtown Brooklyn, was known for its elegance and catered to the elite carriage trade.
When company cofounder Abraham Abraham (whose parents lacked obvious creativity in naming him) died, in 1911, newspapers reported the cause of death as a “sudden attack of acute indigestion.” On the day of his funeral, all the Abraham & Straus and Macy’s (owned by Abraham’s business partners Isidor and Nathan Straus) locations were closed for the day. Other retailers drew their blinds, as a contingent of more than 50 honorary pallbearers escorted Abraham’s casket into Brooklyn’s Temple Israel for the religious service. They were led by New York City Mayor Jay Gaynor, who also gave the eulogy.
Benjamin Altman – Salem Fields Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
One of New York City’s first department stores, B. Altman and Company, on tony Fifth Avenue, was opulent and extensive. In addition to its selection of Waterford crystal and Oriental rugs, it contained a spacious salon for the sale of mourning attire. In fact, in 1911, an article in the Millinery Trade Review noted that B. Altman had “devoted the greater part of their window space to the display of mourning goods.”
When Benjamin Altman, the store’s founder, died in 1913, thousands lined the streets to witness his funeral procession. Two years later, Altman’s granite tomb was dedicated in a ceremony attended by B. Altman employees. Designed by the New York architectural firm of Trowbridge and Livingston, which also designed Altman’s flagship store, the monument is ornamented by a Greek key motif and rests upon a platform at the center of an oval space, surrounded by mausoleums and flanked by pine trees. In 1985, Altman’s flagship store was designated a New York City landmark. The building now houses a branch of the New York Public Library.
Henri Bendel – Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York
Louisiana native Henri Bendel opened Henri Bendel, Inc. in 1895. Before long, his fashionable store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue was a destination for the rich and famous, who came to browse Bendel’s selection of imported French fashions, including those of Coco Chanel. As the years passed, Bendel’s moved with the times, employing a young pop artist Andy Warhol as an in-house illustrator in the 1960’s and, more recently, serving as a filming location for the HBO hit Gossip Girl.
Bendel’s grave, on Pocantico Avenue, is marked by a bronze statue of a woman casting roses onto a granite pedestal. Also buried in the grave is his friend A. Beekman Bastedo, who assumed the presidency of the department store after Bendel’s death.
Despite its closure in 2018, the store’s distinctive brown-and-white striped boxes and bags will forever be associated with the Bendel brand.
Lyman Bloomingdale – Salem Fields Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
The luxury department store, which was founded by brothers Lyman and Joseph Bloomingdale, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2022. It’s longevity more than disproving the prediction of rival retailers, upon its opening in 1872, that the store “wouldn’t last a year.”
Boasting over three dozen locations across the United States, the flagship store on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street has welcomed shoppers from all over the world, including, in 1976, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. For their bicentennial visit, traffic on Lexington Avenue was reversed so that the Queen could exit her vehicle from the right, as protocol dictated.
When Bloomingdale died, in 1905, The New York Times reported that his funeral “was one of the largest ever held in the Jewish community.” In a sign of how widely respected he was, the newspaper felt compelled to need to note that “there were also a number of Christians present.”
Bloomingdale’s Doric-columned mausoleum was designed by McKim, Mead & White, the acclaimed architectural firm also responsible for the design of Bloomingdale’s summer home in Elberon, New Jersey, where he died. His brother, and business partner, Joseph, died a year before and is entombed in Linden Hill Cemetery in Queens, New York.
Max Fortunoff – Mt. Ararat Cemetery, Lindenhurst, New York
The name Fortunoff is a significant one, especially for Long Islanders. Generations of shoppers could always find the perfect gift there for any occasion. From fine jewelry to backyard furniture, Fortunoff’s, in Westbury, had it all. The company’s founders, Max and Clara Fortunoff, began their business, in Brooklyn, by selling housewares. In 1964, the couple moved their business to Long Island, where the store became known for its outstanding customer service, competitive prices, and wide selection.
The Fortunoff family plot is located under a massive tree on a shady corne, at the far end of the cemetery. Max Fortunoff’s footstone reads: He Lived the American Dream. It is a fitting tribute to a man who built an iconic Long Island institution.
Rowland H. Macy – Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
Macy's is an American institution, founded by Rowland Hussey Macy, in 1858. Once known as “The World’s Largest Department Store,” Macy's Herald Square – which occupies an entire city block in Manhattan -- continues to be a shopping mecca for New Yorkers and tourists alike. R.H. Macy began the Christmas window tradition, a concept soon followed by other retailers, and was the first department store to have an in-house Santa Claus. Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has heralded in the holiday season. When Macy died, his New York Times obituary noted, “From comparatively nothing he became one of the best-known and most successful merchants of the day.”
Despite his tremendous success – with hundreds of locations across the United States – his final resting place is surprisingly understated. The monument itself is a columned structure, topped by a granite urn. Inscribed on its base are the words: “The memory of the just is blessed.”
Frederick August Otto Schwarz – Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
His tombstone may be small --with not enough room to spell out his first name--but his stature was huge. Frederick August Otto Schwarz was the founder of F.A.O. Schwarz, the world’s most famous toy store. Its location on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, where employees dressed as toy soldiers greeted customers, became a must-see tourist attraction. Elaborate display windows beckoned shoppers into a wonderland for children and adults alike, filled with unique toys and plush stuffed animals. It soon became more than a place to shop – it was an experience.
The store became a popular backdrop for movie scenes, most notably 1988's Big in which actors Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia do a memorable dance on the store's giant piano. F.A.O. Schwarz closed its doors in 2015.
Schwarz, who was inducted posthumously, in 2012, into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, died from hepatitis in 1911. But F. A.O. Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the United Sattes, was given a new lease on life when it reopened in 2018 in Rockefeller Center.
Isidor Straus – Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
The Straus memorial on Myosotis Street is one of the most arresting sites in Woodlawn Cemetery. Designed by noted architect James Gamble Rogers, the memorial is comprised of three separate mausoleums, which are joined together by a common courtyard. In the foreground, a sarcophagus in the shape of an Egyptian funeral barge symbolizes the transport of the dead into the afterlife. It also contains the remains of Isidor Straus, a partner in both Abraham & Straus and Macy’s, and serves as a cenotaph for his wife, Ida, whose body was never recovered. The couple perished together on April 15, 1912, in the RMS Titanic disaster.
Etched into the memorial are these words from the Song of Solomon, which serve as a testament to the indestructible love and devotion the couple shared: Many waters cannot quench love —neither can floods drown.
Charles Lewis Tiffany – Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Tiffany & Company’s little blue box is an American symbol of luxury and elegance. One of the world’s most iconic jewelers, the company was founded by Charles Tiffany in 1837, and it has a long and storied history. For decades, it has played a part in pop culture in books, movies, and song, from Truman Capote’s book, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which spawned a movie by the same name, to the 1995 song by rock band Deep Blue Something, to a recent ad featuring Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Famed writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was a Tiffany customer, so it was fitting that the company partnered with producers of the 2013 remake of The Great Gatsby for the custom pieces worn by the actors.
When Tiffany turned 90 on February 15, 1902, his employees presented him with a gold loving cup inscribed with the words: May your remaining years be blessed and filled with the peace which passeth all understanding. Tiffany died three days later. Buried just steps away is his son, stained-glass artist, Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Franklin W. Woolworth – Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
It took a lot of nickels and dimes to pay for the grand, Egyptian-themed mausoleum in which Woolworth founder Franklin Winfield Woolworth is entombed. But with more than a thousand F.W. Woolworth five-and-ten-cent stores around the world, it should have been easily affordable. Designed by architect John Russell Pope -- whose works include the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives -- the Woolworth mausoleum sports two guardian sphinxes, Egyptian carvings, columns, and bronze doors depicting figures exchanging an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life. Sharing space with Woolworth is his granddaughter and heir, Barbara Hutton. Known as the “poor little rich girl.” Hutton was a socialite who, despite seven marriages, never found her happily-ever-after. Both Woolworth and Hutton died at the age of 66. Woolworth in 1919, and Hutton in 1979.
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