Greenwood Heights

Bigger footprint for Green-Wood Cemetery visitors’ center

Landmarked Weir Greenhouse will remain the development's nucleus

January 9, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Weir Greenhouse, shown in this December 2013 photo, is being turned into a visitors' center for Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

The site where Green-Wood Cemetery is building a visitors’ center is bigger than you think.

Cemetery officials have decided to increase the size of the footprint of a new building that will be constructed on the property, the Brooklyn Eagle has learned. The new building will stand alongside the landmarked Weir Greenhouse, which will serve as the nucleus of the visitors’ center.

A plan has been in the works for several years to construct a visitors’ center for the famed Greenwood Heights cemetery by combining the 1890s-vintage greenhouse at 750 Fifth Ave. and a new building.

A previous version of the plan, which was drawn up by architect Page Ayres Cowley, was presented to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in July 2015.

The commission’s approval was required because the Victorian greenhouse with the distinctive octagonal dome, which stands across the street from the 478-acre graveyard’s main entrance, is an individual city landmark.

Her design — which the LPC did not approve — called for the new building to be constructed on land surrounding the greenhouse, including a lawn next to it where a tombstone maker, Brooklyn Monument Co., displayed sample grave markers.

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Green-Wood had purchased both the lawn and Brooklyn Monument Co.’s adjacent headquarters building at 242 25th St. for $1.5 million in 2015, city Finance Department records indicate.

Green-Wood was going to sell the vacant headquarters building to a nearby business, Baked in Brooklyn, as the Eagle previously reported.

Now, “Green-Wood has … decided to keep ownership of the property which houses the Brooklyn Monument Co.,” Green-Wood President Richard J. Moylan told the Eagle through a spokesperson.

“This will give us the opportunity to demolish the building, and design a different new construction visitors’ center adjacent to the greenhouse,” he said.

Green-Wood might hire a new designer for the new building.

“While architect Page Ayres Cowley, whose expertise is in restoration of historic buildings, continues to spearhead the work on the Weir Greenhouse itself, Green-Wood is considering other architects to design the new building,” Moylan said.

The restoration of the greenhouse, which has been underway for some time, is “progressing,” he said. “In fact, we hope to be able to make an announcement related to this in the not too distant future.”

Green-Wood bought the Weir Greenhouse for $1.625 million in 2012, Finance Department records indicate.

Finance Department records also reveal that the City of New York has appropriated $2,949,375 for the renovation of the Weir Greenhouse. The money will be made available by the city Economic Development Corp. to the Green-Wood Historic Fund Inc., which is leasing the greenhouse from the cemetery for a 99-year-term.

The Green-Wood Historic Fund Inc. also received money for the greenhouse renovation from the state, in the form of a $500,000 grant.  

A visitors’ center would be a useful amenity for Green-Wood Cemetery, which was founded in 1838. Some 250,000 people pass through its gates each year.

The cemetery is the final resting place for legions of rich and famous New Yorkers, including artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Thousands of Civil War veterans are buried there.

Prior to the cemetery’s founding, its terrain was a site where the Battle of Brooklyn was fought in August 1776.

 

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