“Every man should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends.”
—Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887)
For the second year, Green-Wood will celebrate Brooklyn’s Gay Pride Week with its specially developed Gay Green-Wood Trolley Tour. The Victorian Gothic entry gate (above) to Green-Wood Cemetery is a New York City landmark. It is made of red sandstone, called brownstone by New Yorkers; it was quarried in Belleville, NJ.
About that quote at the top of the page: the friends of Mr. Beecher needed such a cemetery to bury his faults. The star preacher at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn knew a thing or two about faults. He conducted an affair with the wife of his friend and fellow preacher, Timothy Tilton. While Mr. Beecher got a grand grave marker, Elizabeth Tilton’s final resting place is barely noted with a simple, white marble headstone marked only with the word ‘Grandmother.’ Both are buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark in Brooklyn. Although the Gay Green-Wood Trolley Tour does not pass Mr. Beecher’s gravesite, we will see Mrs. Tilton’s.
Maestro Bernstein, his wife Felicia and his sister Shirley are at eternal rest on some prime real estate at Green-Wood. Their gravesite is on Battle Hill, with its wonderful memorial monument to New York City’s Civil War dead, and sight where the American Revolutionary Battle of Brooklyn was fought.
As the Green-Wood trolley winds its way through the rolling green hills of the cemetery, we stop at, get out and visit the gravesites of eight gay men and lesbians, their friends and detractors who are among the permanent residents at Green-Wood. Also included on this Tour is Green-Wood’s Muscle Man, or Rough Boy as the newspapers dubbed him, Civic Virtue. Learn the controversial story behind this monumental work of art. Click on each of photos to be taken to pages where you can read our past postings about the Tour and read what others have written about this unique Tour.
Violet Oakley, resting in the Oakley family plot at the cemetery, is one of two ground-breaking lesbian artists whose gravesites is included on the Gay Green-Wood Trolley Tour.
The grave of William Holbrook Beard had been unmarked for many years. In 2002 sculptor Dan Ostermiller donated a bronze bear atop a simple gray granite slab (above). This is Green-Wood’s most whimsical grave maker, celebrating Beard’s fascination with and depiction of bears in his works.We will pass it on the Tour.
The original marble Angel of Music that once topped the white marble pedestal at the grave of musician/composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk was vandalized and destroyed in the late 1950s. The replacement Angel of Music (above) is bronze; it was unveiled in 2012. See it when we stop at this peaceful spot.
Civic Virtue (above) was a very controversial sculpture in the 1920s. The objections to it resurfaced in 2012, when it was slated to be removed from the Queens Borough Hall Park. Thankfully, Green-Wood stepped up to give a home to this unloved work of art.
Fred Ebb, the lyricist of the Kander and Ebb team who created such memorable Broadway musicals as Cabaret and Chicago, is the only mausoleum stop on the Gay Green-Wood Trolley Tour. The mausoleum is located at the edge of Sylvan Water, one of four glacial ponds within the cemetery.
The Green-Wood Chapel (above) is an exquisite jewel box, a lovely place for the Gay Green-Wood Trolley Tour to come to an end. The Chapel was completed in 1911, designed by Warren and Wetmore, the firm responsible for Grand Central Terminal. It is a scaled-down version of the Tom Tower at Christ Church College, Oxford.
Located on Battle Hill, the highest natural point in Brooklyn, Minerva (above) stands facing, and waving to, Miss Liberty in New York Harbor. You too can wave and see the stunning view of the Lower Manhattan when the Tour visits this spot at Green-Wood.
Although he was not gay, Jean-Michel Basquiat is included on the Gay Green-Wood Trolley Tour. He had many gay artist friends, including Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. Basquiat’s is one of the most visited graves at the cemetery.