Do You Know That Name?
Continuing the journey through historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn the next set of photographs concentrates on some names from history, some remembered today, others forgotten.
DeWitt Clinton has many things named after him in New York including a town, a high school, and a park. Known as the father of the Erie Canal, Clinton was a ten term mayor of New York City. Under his stewardship in 1811 the grid plan for the streets of New York City were instituted. He was also a United States Senator and Governor of New York State. Clinton lost the Presidential election of 1812 to James Madison by less than 10,000 votes and 29 electoral votes.
Clinton was moved to Green-Wood in 1844, sixteen years after his death. The statue on Clinton’s grave is larger than life and the inscription on the side of the marker runs through some of his notable accomplishments. An interesting fact is that this is one of the first large bronze sculptures cast in America. 150 years of exposure to the elements had severely damaged the statue. In 1998 the statue was completely restored.
George C. Tilyou
If you don’t now the name George C. Tilyou, that is understandable, but I guarantee you do know Coney Island. Tilyou ushered in the new century’s modern amusement park with the creation of Steeplechase Park in 1897 and forever changed America’s notion of fun with his vision of mass entertainment. Tilyou died at the age of 52 in 1914. Steeplechase Park remained in business until 1964 and was demolished in 1965. The inscription on the family monument under George’s name says, “Many Hopes Lie Buried Here.” Indeed, the current Coney Island amusement park is a pale imitation of what it once was.
Peter Schermerhorn & Peter Augustus Schermerhorn
The Schermerhorn’s are from the old stock of New York. Their family can trace its lineage back to the Dutch founding of New York in the 1600’s. Peter and his son Peter Augustus were shippers, bankers, large land owners and part of proper society. Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn is named after the family. Each side of the Schermerhorn mausoleum has a door, one for Peter the other for Peter Augustus. The doors look permanently sealed now and it looks like no one will be joining them in this large mausoleum. There are other Schermerhorn relatives graves surrounding the perimeter of the mausoleum.
The Schermerhorn’s, like many cemetery lot owners surrounded their large plot with an iron fence, in this case an unusual ornate one with spikes adorning the rails and balls that top the posts. Nearly all the lots at Green-Wood were surrounded by fences in the 1800’s. Many of the iron fences in Green-Wood and other older cemeteries have been removed due to changing tastes, deterioration, safety issues and “metal drives.” In the 1890’s because many fences fell into disrepair, the cemetery embarked upon a plan to remove most of the fences and by 1934 had taken down many enclosures. During World War II, the US government asked citizens to gather up scrap metal and families donated their deceased relatives fences so the metal could be turned into valuable war products. Today, very few lot enclosures remain intact, though remnants of some fences can still be found around various lots.
William M. “Boss” Tweed
“Boss” Tweed practically ran New York City in the 1860’s and early 1870’s. As the leader of the New York Democratic party and Tammany Hall, he and his cronies stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the city coffers. There were few city projects that The Tweed Ring didn’t receive kickbacks for.
One of the most notorious cases of embezzlement that the Tweed Ring was involved in was the building of the New York County Courthouse built between 1861 and 1881. Every contractor hired to build and furnish the courthouse billed the city outrageous amounts of money and then paid kickbacks to Tweed and his associates One carpenter, George Miller received $360,751 for one month of work in June 1870. The only problem was that there was almost no woodwork in the courthouse at the time. Andrew Garvey a plasterer was paid $133,187 for two days work!
When Tweed’s corruption was brought to light he was tried for his crimes, escaped from prison, went to Spain, was recaptured and was returned to jail where he died in 1878 at the age of 55. In death Tweed is in the center of his family plot surrounded by many other Tweeds.
Completely forgotten today, Professor Henry Draper was an important M.D. and L.L.D.. When he passed away on November 20, 1882, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle said two days later,
“The American nation might lose many a so called statesman and yet be unconscious of having experienced a serious loss, yet the death of one such a man as Professor Henry Draper creates a vacancy that is lamented by the lovers of genius and knowledge throughout the world.”
Draper whose father, John William Draper, also died in 1882 dealt a double blow to science. The elder Draper was a doctor, chemist and professor at New York University and was responsible for igniting the interests his son was to embrace.
Among his gifts Draper the younger was considered by contemporaries a brilliant scientist, a distinguished physiologist, erudite writer, a profound authority on the theory of light and its relations to the eye, an impartial and accurate historian and one of the greatest chemists of the century.
Draper is still known today among astronomers for taking some of he first photographs of nebulas, comets and planets. Draper received numerous awards, including honorary law degrees from New York University and the University of Wisconsin, a Congressional medal for directing the U.S. expedition to photograph the 1874 transit of Venus, and election to both the National Academy of Sciences and the Astronomische Gesellschaft. Draper also held memberships in the American Photographic Society, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He was just 45 when he died of double pleurisy at his home 271 Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
William Wheatley whose profile adorns his marker in bronze relief was a well known actor and theatrical manager. He was born in 1816 and started his career as a child actor and became a fine comedian and melodramatic player. He later became a manager of theaters in Philadelphia. He was married three times and died in 1876 of pneumonia and Bright’s Disease. He is buried in the same plot are Jennie Riddell, wife of Henry W. Riddell. Interestingly Henry W. Riddell is not buried in Green-Wood. How Jennie Riddell is connected to Wheatley is a mystery.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Charlotte Canda’s grave was the most visited tourist site in Green-Wood and probably Brooklyn. Her story is told best by Green-Wood’s web site (where you would have to search deeply to find it, as it is not highlighted in any way.)
The story of Charlotte Canda and the creation of her monument is a true Victorian drama, filled with tragedy, symbolism and beauty. Charlotte was the only daughter of Charles Canda, a Frenchman who had served as an officer in Napoleon’s Army and later emigrated to America.
On Charlotte’s seventeenth birthday, as she was returning home from her party in a storm, she was thrown from a carriage when the horses bolted. She died in her parents’ arms shortly after the accident.
The artistic Charlotte had been designing a monument for her recently deceased aunt and had sketched the ideas for it on paper. Her father adapted the design concept and personalized it for Charlotte by adding her initials, musical and drawing instruments, books, sculptures of her pet parrots and other symbolic details. The concept featured a niche containing a portrait statue of Charlotte with a star above her head symbolizing immortal life.
The Canda family, sparing no expense, commissioned John Frazee, a noted New York architect and marble carver established on Broadway in Manhattan. He was to realize the design, fabricate and erect the memorial. In his employ was Robert Launitz, a Russian sculptor trained in Rome, who is credited with carving the statue of Charlotte. They were to produce an intricate and delicate monument fit to commemorate a lovely young woman.
Charlotte, a Catholic, having first been buried at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Prince and Mott Streets, was reinterred on consecrated ground at Green-Wood on April 29, 1848. Her monument became extraordinarily popular for people to visit, and knowledge of its beauty and legend spread far and wide.
A sad postscript to this story concerns Charles Albert Jarrett de la Marie, a French nobleman who was Charlotte Canda’s fiancé. One year after her death he took his own life out of the grief of losing Charlotte. He is buried in the adjacent plot marked by an elegant headstone bearing his coat of arms.
Whether Charlotte’s fiance really committed suicide over Canda is debatable. The New York coroners inquest, deposed Charles Canda, Charlotte’s father, who said that Jarrett de la Marie came to him the day he killed himself and told Canda he was involved with a married woman in Rome and had brought disgrace to his family.
The Canda monument is in a severe state of deterioration. The original stone in front of her monument that tells the story of her death, has been eroded so that it is completely illegible. It is estimated that it will cost $150,000 to repair the monument and the cemetery is looking for benefactors to make contributions towards a restoration. These two views above, a stereograph photograph and a print, show the monument as it looked 150 years ago.
Peter Gilsey Mausoleum
Many Gilsey family members are interred in this large mausoleum. The Gilsey’s were merchants and real estate speculators and built the famous Gilsey House Hotel in 1871. The building still stands at the corner of Broadway and 29th Street. It is famous for its ornate mansard roof. The hotel, was slated to be demolished in 1909 and replaced with a 20 story office building when the property was sold. The office building plans were never carried out and over the years, the building was altered and went through different uses as a loft and warehouse. The Gilsey was purchased in 1980 by developers and underwent a complete rehabilitation in 1992 and is now a landmarked co-op apartment building.
Peter Gilsey, the patriarch of the family is housed in this mausoleum along with three other Peter Gilsey’s. One great story regarding Peter Gilsey Jr. needs to be told.
On August 16, 1892 Gilsey astonished his friends by getting married to Caroline Dreyer at City Hall. Miss Dreyer was described by the newspapers as “a handsome stylish young girl, well educated and refined.” What makes the story unusual is that wealthy Peter Gilsey Jr. who was part of proper society, would marry a girl like Caroline at all. You see, Caroline lived on the third floor of 204 Wooster Street in the rear of a tenement. She worked as a salesgirl at Hamper’s candy store, 9 Wooster Street. Peter met her there and fell in love with her.
Caroline was engaged to Peter but did not tell her mother until a couple of days before the wedding. Peter came over, met the family and they were impressed with their soon to be son-in-law. As Mrs. Dreyer said after the wedding “she is delighted with the marriage and her daughter is very happy.”
Who wouldn’t be? Love triumphs over money. Except in a clear sign of displeasure, Peter Gilsey’s father cut Peter Jr.’s share of the estate in a codicil to his will a year after the marriage had taken place. Instead of real estate he was originally slated to receive, Peter Jr. was left $50 per month for life. Peter Gilsey Sr. died November 10, 1901. Peter Jr. must have been somewhat ostracized from his well refined and wealthy friends. What the repercussions were from the rest of the Gilsey family can only be guessed at.
No, there is little chance you have heard of him. He lived at 99 Hicks Street in Brooklyn and one of his daughters married a Hicks descendant. He was a U.S. consul to his native country of Belgium.
While popular in the 19th century, Hippolyte will probably not be making a comeback for baby names.
Click here to read part 3.