Green Oasis in Brooklyn: The Evergreens Cemetery 1849-2008
by John Rousmaniere, with photography by Ken Druse
This special account of a special institution uncovers one of America’s most bucolic but least known historic sites – a classic rural cemetery located in Brooklyn, New York, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After describing the key role played by these rolling hills in the American Revolution, historian John Rousmaniere tells how a health crisis shut down urban churchyards and led to the creation of this beautiful cemetery on farmland on the Brooklyn-Queens border. The new cemetery was so remote that families vehemently protested the transfer of their ancestors’ remains. Designed by the most acclaimed architects of their time, Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing, the Evergreens became a popular park for people seeking open air as well as a last resting place for all sorts of Americans, even some deemed pariahs. Chinese-American laborers and African American soldiers in Civil War “colored” regiments lie near tycoons, Congressmen, and ship captains.
Here are intimate accounts of the lives and deaths of famous people. The song and dance star Bill “Bojangles” Robinson sleeps at the Evergreens, as do the infamous scold Anthony Comstock, the jazz saxophonist Lester Young, the nature painter Martin Johnson Heade, numerous crooks and war heroes, and two suspects in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
There are chapters on burial “from the home,” Chinese funeral rituals, the design of monuments, the rise and fall of Decoration Day, and calamities such as the 1918 flu epidemic, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and the loss of the General Slocum. The theme running throughout these pages is of how much we – as individuals and as groups – care about making sure that no one comes to an anonymous end in a lonely pauper’s grave.
Green Oasis in Brooklyn is available in our Reading Room [call number Bd R76].