Greenwood Heights

What’s Up on Fifth Avenue: Green-Wood Cemetery buys property needed for Weir Greenhouse visitors center project

Eye On Real Estate

April 22, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The landmarked Weir Greenhouse, which is under wraps, is being turned into a visitors' center for Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Done deal! At last.

Green-Wood Cemetery recently closed on a property purchase that’s crucial to the makeover of the Weir Greenhouse, which is being turned into a visitors’ center for the famed Brooklyn graveyard.

Green-Wood paid $1.5 million for 242 25th St., city Finance Department records indicate. The property is right next door to the landmarked greenhouse with its octagonal dome, which is on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street across from the cemetery’s main gates.

The property that changed hands in late March is a double lot. There’s a small commercial building that until recently housed the Brooklyn Monument Co. plus a lawn where samples of the company’s headstones are still on display — though the company has moved to Queens, Eye on Real Estate has learned.

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The seller was John Hakola, according to the deed, which was recorded in April. His family launched Brooklyn Monument Co. in 1929; predecessor companies it later acquired date back more than a century and a half.

A deal to sell the property to Green-Wood had been in the works since 2013.

An employee at Brooklyn Monument Co. told Eye on Real Estate in a brief phone conversation that the business has moved to 66-86 80th St. in Middle Village, Queens.

That building has belonged for many decades to another monument-maker, F&E Granite Memorials Inc., Finance Department records indicate.

We asked that Hakola call us back to tell us how he feels about relocating his business to another borough. He hasn’t been in touch yet.

Asbestos abatement and ‘selective demolition’

And now, some details about the restoration of the greenhouse, which is located at 750 Fifth Ave. in Greenwood Heights. Some people say that’s not a real neighborhood name, but Community Board 7 recognizes it as such, so it’s a name we use.

The Weir Greenhouse makeover is an important project because 250,000 visitors annually pass through the gates of Green-Wood, a National Historic Landmark that was founded in 1838 as one of America’s first rural cemeteries. But the graveyard does not have a visitors’ center.

The gorgeous greenhouse — which was built in 1895 and is the only surviving Victorian commercial greenhouse in the entire city — was designated as a city landmark in 1982.

It’s currently tented with white tarps and has an asbestos abatement sign posted outside it. Workers in white haz-mat suits can be seen coming and going.

A sign posted by the city says the project will be completed this coming December.

Last December, the city Buildings Department issued permits for the stabilization and repair of Weir Greenhouse’s cast-iron frame and the “selective demolition of [the] greenhouse façade,” agency records indicate.

Also last December, the Buildings Department approved Green-Wood’s application for the full demolition of a neighboring non-landmarked building, 751 Fifth Ave., that Green-Wood purchased together with the greenhouse for a combined $1.625 million in 2012.  

As we’ve previously reported, at a 2013 public hearing, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) objected to the fact that Green-Wood’s plan to create the visitors’ center called for the demolition of two brick and frame buildings that are attached to the greenhouse. They are considered part of the historic fabric of the property.

At that time, the greenhouse project team was told to work with LPC staff and come up with an alternative solution.

The greenhouse restoration is one of three projects for which the cemetery is soliciting donations through the 2015 Fund for Green-Wood. A web page about the fund says the creation of the visitors’ center is “an essential step toward ensuring Green-Wood’s future.”   

We don’t know how much money is needed to finish the project, though we asked.

Spokeswoman Colleen Roche told Eye on Real Estate that Green-Wood executives declined to answer questions about the project at this time.

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