Green-Wood is New York City’s most iconic cemetery: founded in 1838, it was among the first of the cemeteries in Brooklyn to eschew the gloom and doom of the churchyard for bucolic natural landscapes, manicured lawns, and winding walkways. It soon earned an international reputation for the beauty and size of its grounds, becoming a highly sought-after burial place among New York City’s elite. Its soil houses the worldly remains of some of the most notable names in the city’s cultural and political history, including Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Horace Greeley.
Green-Wood still performs over 1,000 burials each year, but new plots are increasingly scarce, with the vast majority of monuments dating back to the nineteenth century. The cemetery’s focus is now preserving and restoring the existing collection of monuments and statuary. In 2012, the cemetery took the long-neglected Weir-McGovern Greenhouse under its wing, with plans to transform the structure into a visitors center. Later that year, a much-maligned public sculpture ridiculed for its chauvinistic depiction of “civic virtue” found a safe haven near the main entrance. But even as its collection grows and its mission evolves, Green-Wood Cemetery remains a place of permanence in an ever-changing borough.