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The City Concealed
The City Concealed, an online video series exploring the unseen corners of New York. Visit the places you don’t know exist, locations you can’t get into, or maybe don’t even want to. Each installment unearths New York’s rich history in the city’s hidden remains and overlooked spaces.

Tombs & Catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetery

[vimeo id="2577407" width="640" height="360"]

Green-Wood Cemetery is best known as the final resting place of famous New Yorkers like Boss Tweed, the Steinway family, and Leonard Bernstein, but it’s also a treasure trove of hidden sculpture and architecture.

Established in 1838, Green-Wood Cemetery became a destination for American and European tourists. Every year, thousands flocked to the cemetery to enjoy its lush gardens, rolling hills, and stately tombs. Unfortunately, during New York City’s financial woes of the late sixties and early seventies, the cemetery restricted public access and lost its reputation as an urban oasis of art and nature.

Over the last decade, however, the cemetery has made efforts to invite the public back inside, hosting concerts, film screenings, and tours. Still, access to the most fascinating sites — inside the tombs and catacombs — remains extremely limited. That’s why we called Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery’s historian, who wields the massive, dungeon-like key ring that unlocks the granite portals behind which lie the dead.

We’d like to thank everyone who helped make this video possible, including Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery, David Rumsey Map Collection, and Christian Virant and Zhang Jian of The Buddha Machine.

  • comments (18)
  • mildred potenza

    I Spent many tranquil hours in Greenwood cemetary as a young girl. It was a place that my mother loved. Now I visit her and my father as well as a sister and many other friends and family and still find peace and beauty there.

  • amanda

    Wait you’re whole family is perm. there? well glad you find peace…

  • myrna turkel

    The mini-video was beautifully done and interesting. I hope to visit Greenwood some time in the near future. Probably in the Spring. The stained glass windows and sculpture are worthy of a visit.

  • eastern_branch

    Very nicely done – I’d have liked to see more! Looking forward to the next episodes of this series.

  • bob

    fascinating, esp. the glancing “fortress” reference, very nearly candid about 70s Brooklyn class relations. nicest part of Green-Wood is the pond, IMHO. where can i read about the archit. styles? it mostly looks either french second empire or beaux arts to me.

  • Nick DeFrancesco

    Very interesting. I lived very close by for the first 27 years of my life and for the last 35 years reside in CT. Like everything else about native New Yorkers you learn more about things in New York after you leave. While you are there you take everything for granted. Keep up the good work.

  • Tom Orzo

    Lovely piece about a “heavenly” cemetery! In my visit there I was interested to see the somewhat elaborate grave-site of the infamous William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, as contrasted with the very modest stone for Charles Tiffany. Hmm…what does that say about corruption politicians vs. respectable merchants?

  • Wallace Burtis

    From old letters, I recently learned that my great-grandfather, Francis Wallace Burtis was buried at Green Wood Cemetery in l897. I would like to correspond with someone who could give me info on the site and family.

  • Teri

    What a lovely film. My husband and I recently found out his great-great grandfather is buried there and being that we live in Chicago, it was very nice to see where he was buried. Maybe some day I can actually get to Green Wood to take a photo of his marker.

  • Tony

    The place is huge but it’s gorgeous. I recently went there to visit where my father is buried and one can either drive around or walk. I chose to walk to his grave site in order to appreciate all the interesting artifacts and sculptures along the way. A truly fascinating and tranquil place.

  • H.Duffy

    My family has been buried in Greenwood Cemetery since 1860,
    24 in number. It is a beautiful place, especially in the Spring when
    the dogwoods are in blossom.

  • Colleen Savaro

    I live directly across the street from Greenwood Cemeter( 37years) and I have to say, although I don’t enjoy seeing all the funerals from my Living room window,the view of the lake is beautiful all year round. Odd when I think of how, the very grounds I see every time I open my window or front door, is the very place I will be laid to rest one day! Have to say, I have the best neighbors. lol

  • carole W.

    Have visited this wonderfully interesting and historic place and took Jeff Richman’s tour. He is SO knowledgeable and as he said he does not see it so much a place of death but of lives….It is a place everyone interested in history should visit.

  • danielle

    Me and my best friend go to this place very often and see my dad n her grandma. We have a lot of other family here but that is mainly where we go. Well anyway we stay there for hours and drive around and it comforts us to know the ppl who we love so much r resting in this most beautiful place in the world. Its just breath taking. I recommend everyone to go there!

  • teresa mulero

    I plan to take the tour this weekend. I lived across the street on 23rd street off 7th ave from the day i was born till the day i got married and i thought it was the most beautiful place ever. I still see the bench under the tree in my dreams. I remember hearing stories of all the famous monuments there and now finally i am getting to see them. I couldnt have spent my childhood in a better place.

  • d. noethen

    will be in new york visiting our children the week of thanksgiving. Are there any tours available?. We will be there Nov 22-30th. Thank you. If not available could you please respond as what dates are open.

  • Dianne Foster

    Some people are put off by cemeteries or even scared of ghosts. But can you imagine what it is like to be in a place with no cemeteries and never to be taken to a funeral? My life as a child in Orange County, California (“the OC”) was like that, and lots of my friends grew up the same way, because all of our older relatives were in the East. Now I have found that a century’s worth of ancestors are conveniently located in Greenwood. Not only that, my living daughter has an apartment in the neighborhood. She is steps away from her great-great-great-great grandmother’s final resting place! We’ll be touring the cemetery and looking up these dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers whose lives we are just getting to know.

  • Robert D’Addario

    I believe it was Walt Whitman who, in the 19th Century parodied wealthy NYers buy writing (and here I’m paraphrasing): “It is the goal of all wealthy New Yorkers to live on 5th Avenue, take their air in Central Park and be buried in Greenwood Cemetery”.