July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Vandalism to a National Historic Landmark

4 min read
Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery (2007)

There is a place, in Brooklyn, New York, that in its prime “developed an international reputation for its magnificent beauty.” In fact, this place was so “magnificent” that only twenty-two (22) years after its inception it “was attracting 500,000 visitors a year, rivaling Niagara Falls as the country’s greatest tourist attraction. Crowds flocked to [this historic landmark] to enjoy family outings, carriage rides, and sculpture viewings.” [1] I think you will be surprised to hear that the historic site that “rival[ed] Niagara Falls” and was a common place for “family outings, carriage rides, and sculpture viewings” was a cemetery.

Green-Wood Cemetery
Green-Wood Cemetery (2007)

Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 and was one of America’s first rural cemeteries. [2] What made Green-Wood special, other than being a rural cemetery, was the upkeep provided. All of the cemeteries during this time period were overrun by weeds and were blights to the town. Instead of being an eyesore, Green-Woods decided to be, well, better. Green-Wood followed the example of Mount Auburn (the first rural cemetery), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and utilized landscaping and architecture. Not only is the Green-Wood Cemetery full of its own history, but was built on history, literally. The grounds of Green-Wood are a Revolutionary War historic site. The Battle of Long Island, which was the first major battle after America declared independence in 1776, was fought in the exact place where the cemetery is. [1]

Of course, Green-Wood has its own history. With 560,000 ‘permanent residents’, many of these are of historical significance. It was said that “it is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon the Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood.” [3] With this in mind, you can imagine that the elitist and rich found their permanent resting place here. Just to name a few: William “Boss” Tweed, corrupt New York politician; Henry Chadwick, turned baseball into America’s pastime; Jean-Michel Basquiat, an acclaimed artist; Steven Vincent, journalist kidnapped and murdered in 2005 by Iraqis; and four (4) relatives (father, mother, first wife and uncle) of President Theodore Roosevelt. [4] Green-Wood is also significant because its popularity in the mid 1800’s led to New York City’s Central and Prospect Parks, which open in 1857 and 1867, respectively.

Because of the aging and weathering of the marble sculptures, mausoleums, and cast iron signs and fences, the cemetery established a non-profit organization, The Green-Wood Historic Fund, to support, preserve, and promote the cemetery. On September 27, 2006, Green-Wood was added to the National Historic Landmark list due to its national significance in art, architecture, landscaping, and history.

I was distraught when I heard the news late last night that Green-Wood was vandalized. [5][6] There is an estimated $100,000 in damages, and much is irreplaceable. There were fifty-one (51) vandalized plaques, statues, and tombstones. The individuals responsible for this didn’t stop there, they also managed to find a 19th-century American flag and destroy it too.

Damage to Historic landmarks

As you can see, much damage was done and The Green-Wood Historic Fund is asking for help. (A gallery of vandalism photos.) I think it is very unfortunate that people would attack a National Historic Landmark, but it is unforgivable to desecrate graves. I don’t know what is wrong with people. If you want to help and give a little to restore this National Historic Landmark, here is a link to give directly. This is not just to donate in general, this link is to give specifically for the restoration due to the vandalism. (It automatically pops up with $50 in the amount to give box, but it has a drop down menu to give whatever amount you want.) They only accept plastic (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and Discover), so I am also asking if you don’t like to give that way and prefer to give another way..say Paypal (but I will pass on a donation of any medium). I am taking donations as I plan to give some myself. While I am not in the 1% and I don’t have much to offer, I figure that any I can give will help. I am planning on donating $25.00. Click below to give through Hankering for History, it all goes to Green-Wood!


 I plan on wrapping this up by Wednesday, August 29th. So if you want to give through Hankering for History, that is an option. When it is all over I will be posting a list of donations given and the donation payment to The Green-Wood Cemetery Fund, for any of those weary. If you aren’t in a position to give, please pass on the word so others that may have the opportunity can.

[1] http://www.green-wood.com/about-history

[2] Peckenschneider, Grant. History and Development of Greenwood Cemetery

[3] Goldberger, Paul. The New York Times, “Design Notebook; Pastoral Green-Wood cemetery is a lesson in 19th-century taste.” (1977)

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-Wood_Cemetery#Notable_burials

[5] http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Brooklyn-s-Green-Wood-Cemetery-vandalized-3811426.php

[6] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/green-wood-cemetery-vandalized-ghoulish-thugs-100-000-damage-trash-50-graves-historic-brooklyn-cemetery-photos-article-1.1143258

13 thoughts on “Vandalism to a National Historic Landmark

    1. You must know something about history that I don’t. I am not aware of a c. 300 CE prophet. However, the Library of Alexandria was destroyed in 391 CE, and that saddens me as much as the destruction of this historic landmark.

    1. I checked out Lake View Cemetery and it too is almost like a park. The website has pictures of children frolicking, deer grazing, and an old couple hanging out on a bench overlooking a lake. The concept of this is so weird to me. Maybe it is a southern thing, but all of the cemeteries I have been to are memorial style.

  1. Unfortunately, vandalism to gravestones is not uncommon. I cannot comprehend the thrill of doing such a thing–some certainly have far too much time on their hands. The grand-daddy of rural cemeteries, Pere Lachaise in Paris is the resting place of many well-known to history and an unforgetable way to spend hours meandering through time.

  2. Please contact Saving Hallowed Ground . If there is a way we can help with the conservation and repairs to the damaged monuments.
    You Tube ..Saving Hallowed Ground contact Eugene Hough 610-247-1791

  3. I’m surprised that such a cemetery doesn’t have a night watchman. The little cemetery in my hometown of Kingsville, Texas, (pop. 23,000) had a night watchman when I was young. I always understood that as being where the term “graveyard shift” came from.

    1. The scary thing is…they did.

      “But, at Green-Wood, we have a high cast-iron fence that surrounds our 478 acres and limits access by those up to no good. We have an around-the-clock, 24-hour car patrol of the grounds. We have video cameras mounted throughout to discourage vandals.” [6]

  4. I can’t tell you how many older graveyards I’ve come across in the South that have been vandalized. I can’t imagine what would motivate someone to commit such a misdeed. As a teenager, for example, I was petrified of just going into a graveyard at night, and wouldn’t have dreamed of doing anything so seemingly sacrilegious as desecrating markers and gravestones.

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