While driving through Queens, on the way to somewhere else, I happened upon the most extraordinary cemetery. Or, cemeteries. Seventeen cemeteries to be exact, straddling the Brooklyn/Queens border. The first, with its exquisite rows of undulating white headstones, turned out to be a cemetery of tremendous historic importance, the Cypress Hills National Cemetery, one of the original fourteen national cemeteries (top photo). Cypress Hills Cemetery was established in 1849 as a nonsectarian burial ground. In 1862, during the Civil War, 2.7 acres were authorized by the private cemetery to be used by the United States federal government as burial spot for Veterans who did in New York City. There are over 21,000 interments in the cemetery. You can read more about it here.
Abutting these grounds, I noticed a number of very large mausoleums. As I was leaving, I saw that the main entrance at the corner of Jamaica and Hale Avenues was open and unguarded, so, completely unfettered I decided to drive in. I discovered the most extraordinary cemetery I have ever been in (center and bottom photos). See my gallery of photos here.
Some of the structures were the size of small homes. Many of the names were quite familiar - Guggenheim, Goldman, Fox, Shubert etc. Could this possibly be the Guggenheim? The Fox of Twentieth Century Fox? The Shubert of theater fame?
Yes they are. Salem Fields Cemetery at 775 Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn was founded in 1852 by the Central Synagogue and is the resting place for many prominent Jewish families in New York City. Salem Fields has been compared to places like the Père Lachaise Cemetery of Paris. The Guggenheim family mausoleum was modeled after the Tower of the Winds at Athens.
The weather with a cool crisp air was exquisite, the light perfect, the autumn colors beautiful. I was the lone visitor, touring with complete freedom, stopping at every photo opportunity. Unlike many things in New York City, riddled with security procedures, lines, reservations or admission costs, Salem Fields could well have hung a sign for the day - everything yes :)