Green Oasis in Brooklyn
Recently I spoke with Paul Schwartz of Planned Television Arts, a media publicity company representing Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. This verdant cemetery has been labeled a National Historic Landmark and dubbed an 'oasis for the refreshment of the city's soul and body' in the recently published book Green Oasis in Brooklyn. A green oasis it is; the grounds meander 225 manicured acres, jogging back and forth between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The cemetery was designed by influential period architects, Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing in 1849 as a non-sectarian burial ground.
The slopping hills of Evergreens Cemetery are home to many forms of grave architecture; they spindle amidst patches of purple beach trees and spill on to the grey stonewall hugging the perimeter of the property. This bucolic setting is perfect for a weekend stroll, but the guided tour led by fabled groundskeeper Danny Daddario is an animated slice of Americana. He'll guide you amidst the more than a half a million tombs and you become a spectator to the stone monuments of generations of New York's cultural icons. Within you'll find the resting place of the famous dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, prominent musicians such as the 'president of sax' Lester Young and Blind Tom Wiggins a prodigious pianist and former slave whose concerts graced the likes of Mark Twain and President James Buchanan. The land is a testament to the stories of Chinese immigrants, village locals, early Major League Baseball players and civil war heroes. It is a place where history and culture coalesce, a respite to the hustle and bustle of New York City, or simply a place to reconnect with your heritage and nature.
Memorial to Pilot Woolsey
Paul Schwartz recognizes the power of this space. His rhetoric romanticizes this spectacular corner of Brooklyn and he is excited to tell you of his many goals for the cemetery. One of these goals is to take Evergreens Cemetery into the 21st century and to bring this landmark into the collective historical and regional conscience. Of late, he has been heading the campaign to promote the recently published book a Green Oasis in Brooklyn, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the cemetery. The book was written by John Rousmaniere and its 100 plus photographs are captured by garden expert Ken Druse. As well the group has overhauled the Evergreens Cemetery website to implement photo sharing and research tools. The Evergreens Cemetery Flickr account is now live and linked. Within you'll find photos organized by artistic theme of the many headstones and mausoleums. There is even a unique photographic category devoted to interesting epitaphs. The website now functions as a genealogical research tool to query their substantial cemetery records. More than 300 thousand of the 500 thousand interred are accounted for and documented and the research continues. You can now easily search this database on the cemeteries website.
Mr. Schwartz we thank you for your time and sharing this lovely place whose half million stories shine so bright.
You can hear more about this unique place of history in Jacki Lyden's interview with Danny Daddario on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.