goodbye to brooklyn

We had a lovely day in Brooklyn yesterday, courtesy of cooler weather. I wouldn't have attempted these plans in last week's 98-degree heat and high humidity.

Our first stop was the Green-Wood Cemetery, a historic cemetery in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, and a must for Brooklyn fans and New York history enthusiasts. It's a huge, rambling, serene park, where many famous people are buried, and with monuments, statues and tombs designed by famous artists and architects. One part of Green-Wood is the highest land point in Brooklyn, from which you can see New York Harbor and Manhattan skyline. As you walk around, you can often glimpse the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

I ordered some self-guided walking tour books for the occasion. If you ever visit, I highly recommend picking up at least one of these books. The cemetery is vast, there are more than 50,000 monuments, and you would never find the interesting bits on your own.

In fact, if you check out that link with the books, the cover of the first one shows the brownstone entrance gates, built in 1861. The second cover is a statue of Minerva. If you stand beside Minerva and follow the angle of her salute, you will see that she is hailing Lady Liberty across the Harbor.

Because the cemetery dates back to the mid-19th Century, the honor roll of burials is full of Industrial Era magnates and robber barons. Some of them are: F.A.O. Schwarz, the German immigrant who founded what became the world-famous toy store; Louis Tiffany; Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine; Thomas Underwood of typewriter fame; Eberhard Faber of pencil fame (the first man to put an eraser at the end of the pencil); Horace Greeley, the progressive newspaper magnate; James Bennett, his opposite, the Rupert Murdoch of his day; De Witt Clinton, who did just about everything in New York State, including having the Erie Canal built; Nathaniel Currier and James Ives; William Marcy "Boss" Tweed; and Al Capone's boss. This is a very small and partial list.

Our favorite grave was definitely that of Henry Chadwick, "the father of baseball". As the inventor of the scoring system and the box score, Chadwick is clearly Allan's spiritual godfather. Fans of baseball history (and cool trivia) can read Allan's excellent post about Chadwick. For the rest of you, here are some pictures of Chadwick's monument, placed at Green-Wood by Charles Ebbets, long-time owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who is buried nearby.

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Note the baseball diamond and bases in front of the monument.

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Here's another cool monument from Green-Wood: to Fannie the Dog. I hope you can read the inscription.

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This was a terrific historical walking tour. We both like cemeteries, I'm into Victorian-era history, and it's a beautiful park with great views.

After our long walk, we headed to DiFara, which I blogged about here. I can't say enough about Dominick DeMarco. I have such respect for this man, crafting pizza by hand in his tiny shop on Avenue J. The pizza is incredible, but we don't travel more than an hour by subway just for the pizza. To eat at DiFara is to experience simple, authentic greatness. Plus this is how I bribed Allan to do the walking tour with me. He enjoyed the walk, but with the lure of DiFara, I could have gotten just about anything.

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A Brooklyn pizza joint, circa 1964.

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Basil, rosemary and oregano growing in the windows. He grows his own.

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Grating chunks of Romano by hand. That's a huge piece of Romano cheese to the right of the grater. Check out that ancient cash register.

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The man himself, Mr. Dominick DeMarco.

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A photo on the wall of Dom when he first opened DiFara.
The walls are adorned with framed rave reviews, including a terrific picture of Dom on the cover of the Village Voice, for their Best Italian Restaurant story.

After pizza, we headed to Park Slope, where we used to live. In my backpack were little ziplock bags with handfuls of ashes: some of the remains of Gypsy and Clyde. Allan wanted to scatter them in Prospect Park. So I am not the only romantic around here.

After that, a walk down our old street (which looks a lot like this and this), a couple of beers, and back home.


zydeco fish said...

I'm a fan of cemeteries too, and have recently visited a few on a personal quest for my family's history. I went to a fascinating one in Boston some years ago. Oh, and High Gate in London was quite cool.

Marnie said...

Glad you had such a good day. That pizza place looks incredible. Top marks for growing his own oregano!!

You'll enjoy some of our cemeteries too. I went wandering in Mount Pleasant Cemetery recently and had a fine time. There are famous people buried there, and the collection of unusual trees (helpfully labelled) is fabulous.

There's a grave with a big (cement) tire on top, in honour of Wallace G. Chalmers, an automotive engineer whose company produced the Chalmers Suspension System for heavy trucks. Tread softly on his grave ...

This was my favourite, though:
an unlikely superhero?

Marnie said...

Sigh. I can't figure out what I did wrong with that link, but it's not working. The photo shows a wee mausoleum bearing the name "Captain Fluke."

Cin said...

Sounds like you had a great day out!
I too like going into cemeteries - I blame my interest on the visits I made to the family mausoleum when I was a child. So many flowering plants and intricate carvings! And of course, chock full of over-the-top gothic detailing sure to send a kid into a frisson of fear and delight.

laura k said...

Cool, other cemetery fans!

We've been to some really cool ones on various trips. . . .

I'm a fan of cemeteries too, and have recently visited a few on a personal quest for my family's history.

. . . and recently did a bit of this for Allan's quest into his own family history. Nice to hear a little about others doing the same.

Top marks for growing his own oregano!!

Oh yeah, and importing his cheese from one town in Italy, and his olive oil from another, and boiling tomatoes for sauce, and on and on. He's a true craftsman. And the end result is amazing.

Thanks for the tip on the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Marnie!

gito said...

Such a cool thing to do! One of the things I enjoy about reading your website is that you write as if you were telling a bedtime story... in the good way I mean. I am not falling to sleep while I read it.... but it feels like I visited or experienced it.
It is so easy for you to express what you feel and want.

David Cho said...

Thanks for the photo and a tour of Brookly. Chicago is as far east as I've gotten, and I really really should visit NYC.

laura k said...

but it feels like I visited or experienced it.

Wow, thank you, Gito. That's a big-time compliment for a writer.

I really really should visit NYC.

I'm sorry I won't be here when you do, because I love to play tour guide. But at least I can give you some good tips on where to stay, and maybe a few out-of-the-way things to do.

David Cho said...

Maybe you can become a Toronto tour guide.

I really can't show much around here besides the obvious - Disneyland, beaches, Sea World. Tourist attractions can stand on their own.

There used to be a show on KCET (that is our public channel) called the Hugh Howsell (sp?) show. He had a knack for uncovering historic gems in and around Southern California, which isn't known for having a lot of history. I really loved watching that show.

laura k said...

Maybe you can become a Toronto tour guide.

I'd love to one day know the city well enough to do that.

That public television show sounds great, I love that kind of thing. Growing up in New York State, I always loved knowing local history - there's a lot of revolutionary war stuff, and the American women's movement was born upstate.

David Cho said...

a must for Brooklyn fans and New York history enthusiasts.

I didn't catch this last night. Do you mean the Brooklyn Dodgers?

David Cho said...

That is a nice incription.

Ever since I saw this, I tend to pay more close attention to epitaphs. :=)

After you move to Cananda, maybe you can visit that one.

laura k said...

Do you mean the Brooklyn Dodgers?

No, I just meant Brooklyn itself, the place. Brooklyn has a rich history, and many residents or former residents are very proud of it as a separate entity from the rest of the NYC. (Until 1898 ["consolidation"], it was a separate city.) Many people consider themselves fans of Brooklyn or Brooklyn history - including me.

That epitath is hilarious. I can't believe it's real!