Visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Social distancing sign in front of Green-Wood Cemetery entrance

The spooky Halloween season is almost upon us, so for this week’s blog post I am treating you all to a little road trip to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. While not the first stop on most tourist itineraries, the beautiful grounds of this historical landmark are definitely worth a trip in my (spell) book. So without further ado, enjoy these tips for visiting Green-Wood Cemetery. Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

Green-Wood or Greenwood Cemetery?:
A History of the Place

Green-Wood Cemetery historic chapel for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery
The Green-Wood Cemetery historic chapel

First, let’s address the name issue. The correct name of the graveyard is Green-Wood Cemetery. It all goes back to the founding of the cemetery in 1838 as one of the first rural cemeteries in America. By the 1860s, Green-Wood became incredibly popular as a tourist destination because of both its stunning natural beauty and the fact that it was the ‘in’ place for everyone who was anyone to be buried. Indeed, by the 1860s Green-Wood Cemetery had gained so much international notoriety that it was ranked as the second most popular tourist attraction in America – losing out only to Niagara Falls. Its popularity continues to this day, and on September 27, 2006, Green-Wood was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its national significance in art, architecture, landscaping and history.

 

Events at Green-Wood Cemetery

Moms and kids walking along pathways for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery
Looking for a different place to take the kids?

Green-Wood Cemetery has always functioned as something of a public park, rather than simply as a place to bury the dead. Since its inception, coming to Green-Wood was seen as a fun excursion for picnics, carriage rides, and sculpture viewings. The Green-Wood Cemetery of today has embraced this storied past and until recently hosted a broad range of educational and entertaining events.   One of Green-Wood Cemetery’s most popular events was the annual Halloween ‘Nightfall’ whereby the cemetery opened its gates in the evening and had all sorts of eerie entertainers performing throughout the graveyard. Visitors would enjoy an adult beverage or two, walk the grounds, and soak in some seriously spooky ambiance.

Even with a raging pandemic all around us, Green-Wood Cemetery continues to provide events for the community and has increased its hours of operation. The cemetery is still a popular destination, even more so now for families looking to get out of the house. While I was there, I saw several parents with kids in tow simply walking the beautiful grounds. There were also quite a few other tourists, like me, taking in the sights. In case you’re curious, Green-Wood Cemetery has an active calendar of Zoom events and there are always art exhibits on the grounds.

 

How Big Is Green-Wood Cemetery?

Apiary for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery
The Green-Wood Cemetery apiary

The cemetery covers 478 acres that includes a wide variety of natural attractions. There are hills to climbs, tons of paths to hike, and four ponds for calm reflection. Nestled in between the graves and trees is one of the largest outdoor collections of 19th- and 20th-century statuary and mausoleums. In addition, the grounds of Green-Wood Cemetery serve as research reserves for universities looking to study local flora and fauna. The cemetery even has a beekeeping area.

 

But What About The ‘Residents’?

Hillside mausoleums for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery
Hillside mausoleums beside the historic chapel

Yes, there are plenty of graves in Green-Wood Cemetery. The 560,000 permanent residents include such notable folks as Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Charles Ebbets, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Horace Greeley, as well as a whole host of Civil War generals, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers and inventors. It is a historian’s dream come true to see so many famous names in one spot.

If you are looking for a specific someone, you can do a quick and easy burial search on the Green-Wood Cemetery website here.

 

Visiting Green-Wood Cemetery: Logistics & Tips

Graves in a meadow for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery is always free to the public. There are four entrances to the cemetery. Hours may change as the pandemic situation ebbs and flows, but currently the hours are as follows:

  • Main Entrance (Fifth Avenue and 25th Street): 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (vehicles & pedestrians)
  • Sunset Park Entrance (Fourth Avenue and 35th Street): 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (vehicle entrance closes at 4:00 p.m.)
  • Fort Hamilton Parkway Entrance (Fort Hamilton Parkway and Micieli Place): Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (vehicle entrance closes at 4:00 p.m.)
  • Prospect Park Entrance (Prospect Park West and 20th Street): Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (vehicle entrance closes at 4:00 p.m.)

You can drive through the cemetery, with limited entrance hours (as stated above). For my money, however, the subway is the easiest way to reach Green-Wood Cemetery. There are subway stations dotted around the graveyard.

The free map provided by Green-Wood Cemetery has all the celebrity dead marked accordingly. In addition, the map also includes all a self-guided tour plan of the famous architectural and natural sites. Plan to spend a significant amount of time during your visit because of the vast distance between notable locations within the cemetery. During my trip to Green-Wood, I visited the famous architectural sites (all 23 of them), and it took me three hours. I left Green-Wood with only seven minutes to spare before they closed the gates. (Green-Wood Cemetery, no matter how lovely, is not a place where you want to be locked inside for the night.) Make sure you wear comfortable shoes because getting from grave to grave can be a hike across rolling hills. During pre-pandemic times, there was a lovely trolley to take you on a tour, but the trolleys are no longer running.

Finally, note that restrooms are available at the Main Entrance, Sunset Park Entrance, and Prospect Park West Entrances.

 

Visiting Green-Wood Cemetery: The Rules

Grave statuary for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Always keep in mind that Green-Wood Cemetery is an active cemetery. This is not a historical relic, and families still come to mourn their loved ones. As such, visitors to Green-Wood Cemetery should always first and foremost show respect. Here is a link to the complete list of rules when visiting Green-Wood Cemetery. A few to note:

  • No bicycles, scooters, toys, running, or jogging permitted. This is not a park, though it may look like one.
  • No shouting or picnicking.
  • No grave rubbings allowed, and never sit or walk on a monument.
  • Don’t pick the flowers or climb the trees.
  • No pets are permitted.

 

Photography is Encouraged

Angel statue for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

To my fellow shutterbugs, note that photography is actually encouraged at Green-Wood Cemetery. I have been to many other graveyards where the attitude is definitely not as welcoming. Here at Green-Wood, as long as you show respect to the site and to other visitors, you can take as many photos as you like.

Green-Wood has a strong social media presence, and they encourage visitors to post images with the #GreenwoodCemetery hashtag. You can also check out the Green-Wood Cemetery Instagram page, @historicgreenwood, or Facebook.

The only restrictions are regarding commercial or editorial photography that must have prior written consent from Green-Wood Cemetery. Any shoots involving live models or video cameras are prohibited. Drones are also illegal.

 

A Green-Wood Cemetery Engagement Photo Shoot

Green-Wood Cemetery engagement photos of couple under tree with yellow leaves

I had the pleasure of photographing my clients Stephanie and Shane at Green-Wood Cemetery for their engagement photo shoot. It was not your typical engagement session, but then of course, my clients are always far from typical. Stephanie and Shane lived in Windsor Terrace, right next door to Green-Wood, and they had fond memories of walking the grounds together. The photos turned out great, and I would be thrilled to do a similar shoot in the future (hint, hint).

 

So there you have it: my spectacularly spooky road trip to Green-Wood Cemetery. If you are in New York City, or are planning to visit, I highly encourage a trip out to Green-Wood Cemetery. It is definitely worth the commute to Brooklyn.


If you would like to see more images from my travel photography portfolio, then hop on over to my other website – Kelly-Williams.com. Even better, check out my stock gallery of images if you are interested in purchasing a fine art print, calendar, postcard, or even puzzle of my work. The holidays are right around the corner, folks…

Finally, as always, drop me a line if you are interested in scheduling a portrait session or have an upcoming event to be photographed.

Main entrance gate for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery
Close up of the main entrance gate

Yellow daisy at Green-Wood Cemetery

Broken statue seen between gates
A super spooky broken statue spotted between gates of a storage facility
Stained glass window at historic chapel of Green-Wood Cemetery
Stained glass window in the historic chapel

Stained glass window at historic chapel of Green-Wood Cemetery

Colorful light cast on stone pillars in Green-Wood Cemetery historic chapel

Stained glass window at historic chapel of Green-Wood Cemetery

Chandelier in the historic chapel at Green-Wood Cemetery
Chandelier in the historic chapel

Purple flowers for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Graves and statues for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Old grave and large bush for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Praying angel statue for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Blooming white flowers in Green-Wood Cemetery

Gargoyle on the roof of John Matthews' grave
Gargoyle on the roof of John Matthews’ grave

Gargoyles on the roof of John Matthews' grave

Graves under a tree at Green-Wood Cemetery

Grave statue holding fall pumpkin decoration

Graves at Green-Wood Cemetery

'Cabeza de Mujer' statue by Javier Martin
‘Cabeza de Mujer’ statue by Javier Martin

Four graves at Green-Wood Cemetery

Van Ness-Parsons Mausoleum in Green-Wood Cemetery
Van Ness-Parsons MausoleumAngel statue at Green-Wood Cemetery
Dog statues in front of mausoleum at Green-Wood Cemetery
Cherub holding up plant urn at Green-Wood Cemetery
Mausoleum with columns at Green-Wood Cemetery
Branch with fall leaves at Green-Wood Cemetery
Pathway sign at Green-Wood Cemetery
Graves and sunlit pathway at Green-Wood Cemetery
Grave statue at Green-Wood Cemetery
Grave statue with arm outstretched at Green-Wood Cemetery
Statue of woman holding flowers at Green-Wood Cemetery
The oddest statue I saw on my trip to Green-Wood Cemetery. Something very ‘Miss Havisham’ about this statue.

Grave under two enormous bushes for an article on visiting Green-Wood CemeteryMeadow with graves for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Graves underneath tree for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Two hillside mausoleums for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Praying angel statue for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Three graves for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Faceless grave statue for an article on visiting Green-Wood Cemetery

Grave on hill surrounded by trees at Green-Wood Cemetery

Face of woman on grave at Green-Wood Cemetery

Graves seen through the trees at Green-Wood Cemetery

Pierrepont Monument at Green-Wood Cemetery
Pierrepont Monument
Bagpiper playing among the graves at Green-Wood Cemetery
Only in Green-Wood Cemetery can you find a random bagpiper practicing the pipes among the graves. I told him he was loud enough to wake the dead.

Statue of couple dancing at Green-Wood Cemetery

Grave on a hill at Green-Wood Cemetery

Gothic mausoleum at Green-Wood Cemetery

Mausoleum with bricked up doorway at Green-Wood Cemetery
What mystery lies inside this mausoleum???
The lakeside Niblo Mausoleum at Green-Wood Cemetery
The lakeside Niblo Mausoleum

Lion statues outside the Niblo Museum

View of Green-Wood Cemetery catacombs
A view of the catacombs as seen through the gates. Sadly, the catacombs weren’t open during my visit.

Grave statue atop two gian bushes at Green-Wood Cemetery

Monument to Rose Merello Guarino at Green-Wood Cemetery
Bronze monument to Rose Merella Guarino, artist unknown

Close up of bronze monument to Rose Merella GuarinoClose up of bronze monument to Rose Merella Guarino

Main entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery
The main entrance of Green-Wood Cemetery and Brooklyn beyond

 

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