If you are from the northwest of the Bronx, you might know about Woodlawn Cemetery. Not for ghosts or urban legends, but for its beautiful, delicate landscaping. The tastefully organized 400 acres cemetery is designed with a lake, hills, meadows, mature trees, streams, and curved pathways while overlooking the Bronx River.
However, you might not know the deep history behind it.
Woodlawn Cemetery was founded in 1863 and designed by James C. Sidney as a rural cemetery according to The Cultural Landscape Foundation. However, in 1867, the cemetery trustees moved toward a lawn cemetery style that could accommodate monuments and mausoleums. For those who don’t know, mausoleums are buildings for tombs. Woodlawn Cemetery historian Susan Olsen in WNYC’s “The Hidden History of NYC’s Woodlawn Cemetery,” details the rich history of these mausoleums. These architectural monuments set Woodlawn Cemetery apart from the rest.
Known in some circles as the cemetery of the “rich and famous,” New York’s wealthiest citizens built these grand mausoleums to show off their style and wealth. Notable American architects such as McKim Mead & White, Carrere & Hastings, John Russell Pope and many more showcased their artistic talent and expertise in designing the mausoleums that mirrored their clients’ Fifth Avenue mansions while they were still alive. Olsen states that there are 1,316 private mausoleums, the largest collection in the country.
The cemetery houses notable residents that include Duke Ellington, Herman Melville, Fiorello LaGuardia, Joseph Pulitzer, Madam C.J. Walker, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, Celia Cruz, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many more. According to Lloyd Ultan and Shelley Olson’s The Bronx: The Ultimate Guide to New York City’s Beautiful Borough, the funeral and burial of Admiral David Farragut in 1870 put “Woodlawn on the map” as Farragut was a personal friend of General, then president of the United States Ulysses S. Grant. Because of the number of participants that marched behind Farragut’s hearse which as the president, vice president, and every member of the cabinet, no one has ever received such an honor. In 2013, Farragut’s grave and monument was named a National Historical Landmark.
In 2011, Woodlawn Cemetery was declared a National Historic Landmark. Today, there are over 300,000 people buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.
The Woodlawn Cemetery is located on 233rd street and Webster Avenue with another entrance on Jerome Avenue near the north end of Bainbridge Avenue. It is open to the public every day from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Admission is free.