Greenwood Heights

Come see Green-Wood Cemetery’s cherry blossoms

Eye on Real Estate: Fine fleurs brighten Brooklyn graveyard’s vistas

May 1, 2019 Lore Croghan
You know spring has really arrived in Brooklyn when the cherry trees blossom beside Green-Wood Cemetery’s landmarked gateway. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Tempus fugit. Flowering trees’ moments of glory are fleeting. See them ASAP at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Cherry blossoms might be the prettiest flowers in the universe — and Brooklyn Botanic Garden isn’t the only place you’ll find them in abundance this time of year.

The hilly precincts of Green-Wood Cemetery are populated with the beloved blooming trees. At every turn in the 478-acre Greenwood Heights graveyard, masses of pink petals brighten the vistas of tombstones and mausoleums.

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If you took part in Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s wonderful Sakura Matsuri festival last weekend and find you’re hungry for the sight of more cherry blossoms, it’s time for a stroll through Green-Wood.

There are more than 7,000 trees in the cemetery, which was founded in 1838. New plantings will swell their numbers this year, including “wildlife-enhancing species” and “pollinator trees,” Joseph Charap, Green-Wood’s director of horticulture, told me in an interview in February.

Landmarked Gothic Revival gates

If you start your stroll at the cemetery’s main entrance on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, in the blink of an eye you’ll find lovely cherry blossoms.

Here’s a closer look at the blossoms beside Green-Wood Cemetery’s gates. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Here’s a closer look at the blossoms beside Green-Wood Cemetery’s gates. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Just pass beneath the iconic Gothic Revival entrance gates. The flowering trees are on the other side.

The gates were designated as a city landmark in 1966, not long after New York’s landmarking law was passed.

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Architecture firm Richard M. Upjohn & Son designed the gates. Construction began in 1861 and wrapped up in 1865.

Mausoleums by the chapel

Cherry blossoms brighten mausoleums that have a prime place at Green-Wood. The tombs stand in a semi-circle around the cemetery’s landmarked chapel.

 sculptural angel atop the Chambettaz mausoleum gazes down on a flowering cherry tree in Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A sculptural angel atop the Chambettaz mausoleum gazes down on a flowering cherry tree in Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Walk along the path above these tombs for an ideal look at the lovely trees. From up here, an angel on the Chambettaz mausoleum seems to hover over the pink blooms.

By the way, the chapel, which architects Warren & Wetmore designed, is being renovated at this moment. Don’t be surprised to see that its facade is wrapped in protective plastic sheets.

Valley Water

Green-Wood’s landscape is punctuated by glacial ponds with picturesque names.

Cherry blossoms frame this view of a Green-Wood Cemetery pond called Valley Water. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Cherry blossoms frame this view of a Green-Wood Cemetery pond called Valley Water. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The one called Valley Water, which can be found right near the landmarked chapel, is ringed with cherry trees in full flower.

A shoreline path leads beneath the trees. There’s seating if you want to linger a while and soak up the scenery.

Sylvan Water

A short stroll will take you to another glacial pond, which is called Sylvan Water.

The Michel mausoleum is visible in the distance on the shoreline of Sylvan Water. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
The Michel mausoleum is visible in the distance on the shoreline of Sylvan Water. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Numerous mausoleums are situated on its shoreline.There are fine flowering cherry trees all over the place.

One of my favorite sculptures in all of Green-Wood is here at the edge of this pond. She’s a feathery-winged angel garbed in a gown. She sits on a big block out on a staircase in front of Rocco Agoglia’s mausoleum. He died in 1971, according to Find A Grave Memorial.

his angel sits outside the Rocco Agoglia mausoleum near the shoreline of Sylvan Water. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This angel sits outside the Rocco Agoglia mausoleum near the shoreline of Sylvan Water. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Above Sylvan Water, there’s a walkway called the Ravine Path. Landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is in charge of a project to rebuild the walkway.

After you walk up this path, you will head in the general direction of the cemetery’s Fort Hamilton Parkway boundary. Winding roads will lead you to clusters of cherry trees.

Vista Avenue and Fir Path

There’s a lot of strolling — and lots of sightings of flowering trees — to be done.

A cherub sits serenely among flowering trees in Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A cherub sits serenely among flowering trees in Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

There’s every sort of angel to be seen on the monuments. Look at this boyish one I photographed with blossoming boughs in the background.

So many stunning monuments caught my eye on this part of my stroll.

For instance, the Watson family grave marker is simple but dignified. And a nearby flowering tree is really something.

A fabulous flowering tree surrounds the Watson monument. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A fabulous flowering tree surrounds the Watson monument. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

If you keep walking, eventually you’ll find yourself on a section of Vista Avenue that skirts a bowl-shaped valley. Blossoming cherries and other beautiful flowering trees ring the edge of the valley.

You can step closer to the trees via a little walkway called Fir Path.

Flowering trees brighten this view of gravestones near Vista Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Flowering trees brighten this view of gravestones near Vista Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

William M. Greve mausoleum

You might get to the point where you’re weary of walking, no matter how fine the scenery.

It would be a shame to stop strolling, though — because you’d miss William M. Greve’s mausoleum and the tremendous cherry blossoms that hang beside it.

The tomb looks like a miniature Classical temple. It’s near the modern Hillside Mausoleum, which is close to the cemetery’s McDonald Avenue boundary.

Did you know Greve was a developer? As the head of a company called Realty Associates, he built hundreds of bungalows in Gerritsen Beach in the early 1920s.

Developer William M. Greve’s mausoleum is very grand. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Developer William M. Greve’s mausoleum is very grand. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Minerva, the goddess of Battle Hill

I should mention that Green-Wood’s gates have strict closing hours.

When the exits on Fort Hamilton Parkway and Prospect Park West are open, which is weekends and certain holidays, they’re locked up at 4 p.m.

After 4 p.m., you’ll have to double back to the main entrance on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street. This time of year, the main entrance remains open until 7 p.m.

One good way to get to the main entrance is to stroll on Border Avenue. After you walk for a while, turn onto Hemlock Avenue and find your way up onto Battle Hill.

This piece of the cemetery is a key site of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brooklyn.

Frederick Wellington Ruckstull sculpted Battle Hill’s magnificent statue of Minerva, goddess of war, that commemorates the battle.

The best-known fact about Minerva is that she lines up perfectly with the Statue of Liberty down in the harbor. Minerva raises her hand in salute to Lady Liberty, which mirrors Lady Liberty’s gesture of holding up her torch.

 Hail to thee Minerva, reigning goddess of Battle Hill. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Hail to thee Minerva, reigning goddess of Battle Hill. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

If you photograph Minerva in profile, you can include nearby cherry trees in the picture.

Van Ness-Parsons pyramid

As you head down Battle Avenue towards Green-Wood’s main gates, you will see other blossoming cherry trees.

There’s a really nice one where a walkway called Verdant Path intersects with Battle Avenue.

If you photograph this tree facing up the hill, your image will include one of the quirkiest mausoleums in the cemetery.

It’s the tomb of pianist Alfred Ross Parsons and his wife Alice Schuyler Van Ness. They died in the early 1930s.

Parsons was an Egyptologist. Their tomb is shaped like an ancient Egyptian pyramid. There’s a sphinx statue out front as well as statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

A beautifully blossoming cherry tree frames this view of the Van Ness-Parsons mausoleum. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A beautifully blossoming cherry tree frames this view of the Van Ness-Parsons mausoleum. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Follow Brooklyn Eagle reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.


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