The New York Landmarks Conservancy alerted us to this new video that actor John Turturro narrates about Green-Wood Cemetery – and while it’s meant to raise money for the burial grounds, it’s also a neat bit of history about the space where more than 560,000 people are buried, from composer Leonard Bernstein to Boss Tweed and thousands of Civil War veterans.
Turturro, who has been in such films as “Do The Right Thing” and “The Big Lebowski,” gives us a quick overview of the history of the cemetery, which was created in 1838 and is the oldest landscaped space in the city; it predates both Central Park (which opened in 1857) and Prospect Park (which opened in 1867). Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, points out in the video that, “at one point, in the 1860s, this was the second most popular tourist attraction in the country, after Niagara Falls.”
“Green-Wood is unlike any place in New York City,” Turturro says. “It’s a mecca for history lovers, bird watchers, Brooklynites, and New Yorkers who want to get away from the urban grind – just as they did in 1838 when Green-Wood was opened.”
Now designated a national historical landmark, Green-Wood has 478 acres of hills and valleys provided by the glacial moraines, as well as one of the largest outdoor collections of 19th and 20th century statuary and mausoleums. The Battle of Brooklyn was partially fought on the land that became the cemetery, and Scot Medbury, president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, notes in the video that Green-Wood has “one of the largest, oldest, and most diverse collection of trees in the northeast,” including a pair of Sassafras trees that pre-date the cemetery.
A number of sports greats are buried in Green-Wood, including Brooklyn Dodgers owner Charles Ebbets; baseball player Fred Jacklitsch – who played for the New York Highlanders, which became the Yankees; and Henry Chadwick, who’s often referred to as the “father of baseball.”