Greenwood Heights

Photos: Autumn splendor at Green-Wood Cemetery

November 21, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Green-Wood Cemetery's landmarked chapel is reflected in a glacial pond called Valley Water. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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The scenery’s to die for.

Famed Green-Wood Cemetery is a fine place for leaf peeping. And it’s not too late to take your own autumnal walk among the tombstones if you haven’t yet had a chance to do so.   

As of this past Saturday, when these photos were snapped, there were plenty of deciduous trees on the rolling hills of the 478-acre Brooklyn graveyard whose leaves hadn’t starting changing color.

You don’t need to hold off until a sunshiny day to have a memorable visit to the historic cemetery, which was established in 1838.

When the skies are gray, glacial ponds scattered around the cemetery become mirrors that reflect the mausoleums lining their shores.

A pond called Valley Water serves as a reflecting pool for the cemetery’s century-old Gothic-style chapel.

The iconic limestone chapel was designed by architecture firm Warren & Wetmore, whose claim to fame is that it designed Grand Central Terminal. In 2016, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the chapel as an individual city landmark.

If you decide to walk Green-Wood’s winding roads from pond to pond, you might pass by the Matthews Monument on your way from Valley Water to Sylvan Water.

There are four crazy-faced gargoyles on it that would be right at home in Harry Potter movies.

John Matthews was known as the “Soda Fountain King,” according to an online posting by Jeff Richman, Green-Wood’s historian. British-born Matthews was a successful Manhattan manufacturer of carbonated-soda fountains. He died in 1870.  

His likeness is included in the monument in the form of a marble statue lying on a sarcophagus.


William Niblo’s mausoleum was Party Central

Depending on which road you take to get to Sylvan Water, you might also see George C. Tilyou’s gravesite. The founder of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park died in 1914.

The shoreline of Sylvan Water is ringed by tombs — including the Michel family’s, which has two bronze statues of dogs outside its door.

Also seen on Sylvan Water’s shoreline: A colonnaded circular temple that memorializes Emile Pfizer, who died in 1941. It looks like an ancient Greek tholos.

He was the last member of his family to be an executive of the pharmaceutical company Charles Pfizer Sr. co-founded in Brooklyn in 1849.

A quote incised on the granite temple’s frieze is from William Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It.”

It’s about the character-building nature of adversity.


Near the shoreline of Dell Water, which is another glacial pond, a statue of a young woman marks the grave of Hortense Leandita, wife of N.H. Hamilton.

At the time of her death in 1874, she was only 21.

The shoreline of Crescent Water was Party Central in the 19th century. That’s because the irrepressible William Niblo held parties and picnics at his magnificent mausoleum, which is located there.

Niblo owned a pleasure garden with a 3,200-seat theater on the corner of Broadway and Prince Street in the neighborhood that’s now SoHo. He died in 1878.

Niblo’s Garden, as his entertainment venue was called, remained in business until 1895.


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