New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, November 26, 2010

Everything Yes

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 :)


Luis Gomez said...

What a beautiful discovery Brian.

Brian Dubé said...

Luis - Thanks. I have some updating to do on this posting.

TD23 said...

hey Brian,
have been on this blog often, but commenting for the first time. Lovely photographs. There is something inherently charming about the place (i know thats not such a right thing to say). I can just visualise the calm and peaceful aura the place must be carrying.

Leslie said...

What a remarkable place! I had no idea any cemetery in Queens could be so beautiful. I guess many famous, rich families resided there in the 'old' days.

Mary P. said...

Even I, who grew up nearby, haven't seen these before. They are certainly the most elaborate mausoleums I've ever seen.
I don't believe that these people were Queens residents at all, but were just interred there. Queens is the borough of cemeteries. People from all over are buried there. Lucky Luciano has a mausoleum in St. John's Cemetery, half a block from where I grew up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian
Your blog is the first thing I look at every day. I am a New Yorker who grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens and now live in Australia. Thank you for your exquisite writing and photos.

Rob @ Photographers Gone Mad! said...

I love old cemeteries like this! There is a great one in Toronto, Canada.

Anonymous said...

Great shots of a beautiful place Brian. It's a great story.

Anita said...

Thanks for the walk through memory lane. My grandparents were head caretakers of Salem Fields until mid 1950. They lived in the apartment above the office, a place I visited often. A number of photos were take of me and family members on the lawn, sidewalk and granite 'stoop' leading to office. Though I was disciplined a number of times for visiting the 'little houses', I am, to this day, charmed by their beautiful stain glass windows and meaningful structures. I will always have warm memories of 'my little park', Salem Fields Cemetery.