How can some place so sad be so beautiful? When you walk through a cemetery like Green-Wood you’re surrounded by tombstones. You pass graves that date back more than a century. You pass dozens of resting spots for children that died before their 5th birthday. It’s easy to forget the sadness of a place when it’s so pretty, because you’re surrounded by big, leafy trees and masterfully crafted architecture.
I didn’t go to Green-Wood with a path in mind. I didn’t even seek out the famous graves of people like Boss Tweed or Charlie Ebbets. I went to wander. I’m always curious in a cemetery about the lives of the people buried there. What are their stories? Where did they come? What did they do? Who did they love? You learn a bit when you pass them. The size of the family. How long ago they made their mark on New York. And even how much money they had—large ornate tombs and mausoleums for wealthy aristocratic families. But, the real stories are lost, buried in the volumes of family history and legends.
It’s incredible that so much of Green-Wood is so old. In other cemeteries I’ve visited you know instantly when you’re approaching a section with ancient graves, by the number of trees and how crumbled the graves are in the area. At Green-Wood, you’re constantly surrounded by trees. You’re constantly surrounded by crumbling and sunken tombs. There are certainly newer sections and crypts, but mostly it’s just beautifully old and sad.