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The Woodlawn Cemetery
Nearby Subway Stops
4 at Woodlawn; 2, 5 at 233rd St.
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It's been said that Woodlawn is second only to the public library as a nexus of New York history, and it's not far behind Central Park in the area of bucolic splendor. The city's second largest cemetery opened in 1863 on a 400-acre plot of partially wooded farmland, and quickly became the ultimate "in spot" for movers, shakers, and culture-makers. Its more than 300,000 permanent residents include household names in commerce (Macy, Penney, Woolworth), politics (Laguardia, Robert Moses, Elizabeth Cady Stanton) and the arts (Guggenheim, Pulitzer, Berlitz). Unlike many other cemeteries of the time, the sloping plot was also designed—with winding paths, majestic trees, and immaculately tended lawns—to be an escape for the living. Although picnicking is no longer allowed, visitors can still enjoy utter solitude as they stroll past a meticulously plotted showcase of Greco-Roman and Egyptian-influenced burial structures, including towering obelisks and over 1,300 stately mausoleums of idiosyncratic flair. A map provided by security guards identifies key graves among the maze of pathways (a refreshing escape from the city’s grid), however it’s just as pleasant to happen upon them accidentally while watching black squirrels scurry about from pines to lindens to beeches. Proceeding from one entrance to the other at a leisurely pace, with a rest by the modest moss-green lakes full of ducks and geese, will take one to two hours.Jazz Greats
The graves of Miles Davis and Duke Ellington are located side-by-side at the intersection of Heather and Knollwood Avenues. The Duke arranged his family's markers in the style of an orchestra’s seating chart. Sir Miles Davis's sarcophagus is marked by a large black granite slab depicting a few bars of his song Solar. Other jazz musicians such as Lionel Hampton and Coleman Hawkins rest in the Fir and Yew plots respectively; salsa legend Celia Cruz was interred nearby.
Consider Them Both, the Sea and the Land
Admirers place seashells, rocks, even cigars on Herman Melville's relatively understated tombstone, located in the Catalpa plot, one of the cemetery's oldest.
On the mount ringed by Hawthorne Avenue, Jay Gould's mausoleum, a scaled-down version of a Greek temple sits near one of Woodlawn's oldest trees, a weeping beech whose branches skirt the ground.
On Sundays during the spring and fall, The Friends of Woodlawn offers a 2-hour "Walk Through Woodlawn," starting at 2 p.m. The afternoon tours have a different theme each week, including Jazz Greats, Heroes of the S.S. Titanic, Artists and Architects, and Famous Fathers. Call 718-920-1470 for information.
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