Cristiana Pena, Director of Programs of the Woodlawn Conservancy, welcomed us Greeters warmly and was an endless source of captivating information.
Built in 1863, Woodlawn was established by a group of wealthy New Yorkers who wanted a lavishly landscaped cemetery near Manhattan. Today it is 46 minutes by subway. Woodlawn has more than 310,000 individuals interred on its grounds. It attracts over 100,000 visitors each year and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011.
Woodlawn’s unparalleled natural beauty includes rolling hills, tree-lined roads, and a huge array of flora, fauna, and birds. It is also home to five of New York City’s “Great Trees,” with age, height and beauty as the criteria.
Woodlawn is also architecturally magnificent – a showplace for monument masterworks. There are over 1300 private mausoleums designed by legendary architects, landscape artists and sculptors – Louis Comfort Tiffany among them.
Cristiana enjoyed giving us some mausoleum scuttlebutt. F.W. Woolworth, who built his fortune on five-and-ten-cent stores, had a massive stone mausoleum. His granddaughter Barbara Hutton squandered her $50 million inheritance, leaving just enough money for roses at her funeral!
Next we visited the mausoleums of J.C. Penny, the department store mogul, John Gates, who founded Texaco oil, and William Ziegler, who made his fortune in baking soda.
Woodlawn is the resting place of the “Who’s Who” in American history – from writers, actors, musicians and politicians to athletes, public servants, veterans and business moguls. Among them are Duke Ellington, Fiorello La Guardia, Joseph Pulitzer, Nelly Bly, Antoinette Perry and many more luminaries.
Although Woodlawn is a burial ground, there is nothing mournful about it. It is a celebration of beauty, dignity and most of all, life.
Woodlawn Cemetery is free and open every day from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can
plan a guided tour or one with recorded sound. Call toll-free 877-496-6352 or go to www.thewoodlawncemetery.org