greenwood cemetery

January 15, 2013 |  Category:   life nyc outings











The cemetery. Not the first place to come to mind when thinking of an outing to take the kids on a weeekend, but why not? Especially when you have one as beautiful as the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. I believe it’s one of America’s oldest cemeteries and perhaps, one of the most beautiful. Some notable people are buried here: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, the Steinways, Peter Cooper (the Cooper Union founder where I went to school), members of Theodore Roosevelt’s immediate family, and most recently just last year, two time Pulitzer Prize winning American composer, Elliot Carter, who Mark and I both admired during our music studies in college.


I think the girls were a little confused when we got off the bus and I told them that we were going to the cemetery, but you gotta love kids. For the most part, they just go with the flow no matter how random. Soon enough, however, they discovered why I love this cemetery so much. At nearly 450 acres, it’s easy to meander and get lost through the narrow cobblestoned paths that cut into the hills. They started foraging for leaves, stray flowers that got blown away from their graves and other little nature treasures. They went on a quest to find the oldest tombstone they could find and stopped at mausoleum entryways to bow down in their own little ceremonies. We talked about what cemeteries were and why we needed to respect the land and the graves.
I’ve never been to Greenwood in the winter and it was sort of fitting that it was a gray, slightly foggy day. It rendered everything a bit colorless and desaturated except for the gold, moss green and amber hues found in the ground and the few surviving leaves on the trees. There’s something beautiful about the starkness of dark, bare branches against a white sky, isn’t there? (hey, trying to see some positives in this bleak weather). And something peaceful about the weathered statues and the graves below. We vowed to return in the Fall when I’m sure the landscape is spectacular, though the cemetery did suffer severe damage to nearly 300 of their 7,700 trees during Hurricane Sandy. Some of the damage has yet to be cleared away.
By the way, do teenagers still hang out in cemeteries or is that just a thing that new wave goth kids did in the 80s? (we have a lot of cemeteries in NYC).

Photo of me and C taken by Megan McCormick. And yes, the symbolism of that last grave site is quite something.

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  • krystal/village January 16, 2013 at 7:01 am

    wow these are beautiful pictures…

  • Christina January 16, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I also enjoy walking around cemeteries – there’s just something so eery and beautiful about them (and you capture that beautifully in these photos). I also love the last photo of the two of you!

  • baekdoe January 16, 2013 at 9:16 am

    i almost moved literally across the street from here. beautiful photos! i’m definitely putting on my list of places to visit in brooklyn.

  • Lani January 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Very beautiful. That last gravesite is interesting. Can you say more about it, like why they chose to have a pyramid?

  • Jenna January 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    @Lani. No idea. I mean, I would really have no way of knowing. I don’t think it’s a famous person’s grave.

  • Candace January 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Forgive me if this sounds weird or something, but Jenna I am just LOVING the way you are raising your kids! There is so much balance in the way that you do it that differs from so many other parents! You remind me of my mother who strongly believed that kids needed to have different and out of the box experiences; learning about their world and interacting with it instead of sitting around playing with mainstream toys and watching TV all the tme. Your blog reminds me so much off my childhood,(and you and me are in the same age group btw) and the similarities amaze me every time!

  • Jenna January 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    @Candace Thank you! What a nice comment. But Candace, don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of playing with mainstream toys and watching TV as well! I wouldn’t want to put out any kind of misconceptions based on what I only post here. I’m glad to hear that the blog reminds you of your childhood. That is so nice.

  • Jenna January 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    @baekdoe I have a friend who lives nearby and she takes walks there all the time. It really is a beautiful, quiet place to take walks. I bet it’s beautiful in the snow!

  • Willa January 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Wait a second, photo by Megan McCormick? This isn’t the same Megan McCormick from Globe Trekker, is it? I love her!

  • Jenna January 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    @Willa hahaha, it is! Our daughters are best friends.

  • Wendy January 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I think I first saw a pic or two on Instragram (or Twitter maybe?) and I thought for a second that you were in Europe because of the gothic architecture (picture N°10). It’s a very beautiful cemetery. It’s very sleepy hollow-ish. :)
    (And if you ever come to Paris, we have the Père Lachaise, built in 1804. It’s famous for the numerous celebreties burried there such as Jim Morrisson, but also for its garden!)

  • Jenna January 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    @Wendy, Yes, I did post a few pics on instagram. And I have been to the cemetery in Paris! Years ago…

  • JustineH January 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I love cemeteries! When my cousin and I were pre-schoolers, we used to implore my Aunt with cries of “Wanna go tetery!” It was our favorite place to walk. Today as a grownup and history buff, I love to think about lives lived.

  • sylvï January 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    i love cemeteries, especially the old ones that have been left alone. an old one in my home town was ‘made pretty’ and dug up some twenty years ago and it still makes me sad. nowadays most of the old tombstones left are unreadable, because they were arranged in rows in the midst of dense shrubbery that no one ever trims. it boggles the mind. i’ve been to ireland and scotland where they have some pretty remarkable ones, smack in the middle of cities, untouched. i like the typography and design especially, seeing the trends of different eras, and the names of people, many of which are back in style now. and the tame squirrels, of course, where available.

  • Polly Hope January 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I love to dip into your blog. Your pictures are really beautiful and NYC / Scotland (me) well it’s different. This post makes me think of a book I read last summer, Tracy Chevalier’s Fallen Angels… where cemeteries were an outing in Edwardian times.

  • DRESSING IVANA February 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

    beautiful photos!