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BOOK REVIEW – Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

“It was the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the [Central] Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood.”

- From an 1866 New York Times article


Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery – New York’s Buried Treasure by Jeffrey I. Richman is full of interesting stories and anecdotes of New York’s most colorful citizens. As the dust jacket so eloquently states: “Everybody loves a great story, and Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery has many of New York’s great stories to tell. Everyone who was anybody in 19th century New York wanted to be buried there, and they were.”

Some names you are sure to recognize – Elias Howe, Jr. (inventor of the sewing machine), Nathaniel Currier and James M. Ives (Currier & Ives prints), Henry Ward Beecher (pastor), Edward R. Murrow (TV and radio journalist), Henry Engelhard Steinway (of piano fame!), Leonard Bernstein (composer), Louis Comfort Tiffany (acclaimed designer).

But the lesser known figures in Richman’s book have fascinating histories of their own. For example, you may have seen the movie Glory, the story of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War. General George Crockett Strong, who died leading the charge on Fort Wagner, now reposes at Green-Wood.

Charles Feltman, the Coney Island restaurateur who is credited with inventing the hot dog as we know it, is also buried at Green-Wood. He was born in Germany, where he was intimately familiar with the frankfurter. To help improve business, he decided to put the frank in a special long roll, to make it easier to eat while walking on the street or strolling the beach. The rest, as they say, is history.

The book is lavishly illustrated with a wide variety of historic images from several different sources, showing the author’s broad range and scope when composing his narrative. Richman photographed all of the cemetery monuments himself, adding a sense of place to each of Green-Wood’s permanent residents.

Although the book is a bit pricey, it is well worth the money. It is only available in hardcover, and is 240 pages long. It is written as a collection of short biographies that you can pick up and read now and again.

But I will warn you: Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down!




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