One of my goals as a travel blogger is to provide travelers a greater awareness of the "outer boroughs." For years, these "other New York City counties" have, for the most part, gone unnoticed by tourists, and as a result, have not been on the radar as destination points when planning trips to The Big Apple.
When one considers that the documented history of New York City began with the first European explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 and then, European settlement beginning with the Dutch in 1609, it is no wonder that the city as a whole, contains a superabundance of American history throughout. The Bronx is no exception!
This past week I had the absolute pleasure of meeting up with the local Bronx tour guide, Alexandra Maruri, from Bronx Historical Tours. My original plan was to spend an entire day walking around the Woodlawn Heights area of the Bronx and taking in all of the sites, within what is affectionately known as Little Ireland. I'm afraid, quite happily, that my thorough touring of the area, will require a few more visits.
There are many famed cemeteries throughout the world, and let me assure you, that the nonsectarian cemetery of Woodlawn is one of these. This site is more than just the final resting place for those buried within it, but, is also a must see destination for viewing some of the most breathtaking monuments and edifices contained within the city and should absolutely be added to your important points of interest list within New York City.
As an active, 400-acre non-sectarian cemetery, it is without a doubt, an oasis in an urban setting, built on rolling hills with tree-lined roads. There are more than 310,000 individuals that are interred on its grounds, many of which were great figures in American industry, the arts and politics.
Woodlawn Cemetery was established during the Civil War in 1863, in what was then southern Westchester County, in an area that was annexed to New York City in 1874. To this day, it is one of the largest cemeteries in all of the city of New York. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011, joining an exceptional roster of 2,500 sites nationwide, it has been described by the National Parks Service as “a popular final resting place for the famous and powerful,” and the cemetery is distinguished by memorials that “represent the largest and finest collection of funerary art in the country.”
This historic site attracts over 100,000 visitors from around the world each year, to behold the monuments and mausoleums designed by the nation’s most accomplished architects, landscape designers and sculptors.
Additionally, within Woodlawn is an entire section of grave sites that date back to the time of the Civil War. Many of these are being give tender loving care in repair work by adult cemetery volunteers and students from the local schools. I was so taken with one memorial marker within the cemetery dedicated to the historic Site of the Redoubt, where General George Washington's troops fired their cannons at the British army during the American Revolution. Who would have known such events happened two centuries ago right in the middle of this borough!
I do not easily get awestruck but let me tell you I was so taken with the craftsmanship, beauty and architectural detail at every turn within Woodlawn Cemetery. It was hard for me to get my arms around the fact that these beautifully designed buildings were constructed to lay people to rest, as many of them looked like churches and public buildings worthy of individual recognition.
Many of the memorials were designed by famous American architects, including McKim, Mead & White, John Russell Pope, James Gamble Rogers, Cass Gilbert, Carrère and Hastings, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Beatrix Jones Farrand, and John La Farge.
Additionally, the cemetery contains seven Commonwealth war graves, which include six British and Canadian servicemen of World War I and an airman of the Royal Canadian Air Force of World War II.
One needs days to literally take in all the beautiful sculptures that adorn Woodlawn, as each road and hill is filled with artistic creations. Of the small few I was able to view and snap a picture of during my visit, I was I was captivated by the magnificence of the bronze sculpture, Memorial to a Marriage and The Outcast by Attillo Piccirilli.
In addition to the creative architecture and ornamental detail of the the memorials that individuals flock to Woodlawn to admire, their visit also is motivated to pay respect to the many historic figures buried within, which includes artists & writers, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, great entertainers and jazz musicians.
While this list is quite extensive, here is a short list of 25 of the many famous individuals buried at Woodlawn. Many of them were from The Bronx and the New York City area.
2. Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919) - First American Woman millionaire - founder of African American hair care products.
3. Dr. Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) - First Black American to be awarded the Nobel Prize
4. Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947) - Mayor of New York (1934-1945)
5. George M. Cohan (1875-1942) - Actor, producer, and composer. His songs include "Over There" "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "You're a Grand Old Flag)
6. Celia Cruz (1924-2003) - Cuban-born singer known as the "Queen of Salsa"
7. Irving Berlin (1889- 1990) - American Composer. Songs include: "God Bless America" and "White Christmas"
8. Miles Davis (1926- 1991) - Innovative jazz trumpeter memorialized by his 1954 Composition "Solar"
10. Lionel Hampton (1908 - 2002) - "King of the Vibe" memorialized by his signature song, "Flying Home"
11. Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach (1924 - 2007) - Pioneer drummer of the bebop era and civil rights activist.
12. LeRoy Neiman (1921-2012) - Painter known for colorful images of sports figures.
13. Nelly Bly (1864-1922)- Pioneer in investigative reporting.
14. Herman Melville (1819-1891) - Author of the classic America novel Moby Dick.
15. Gertrude Ederle (1906-2003) - First woman to swim the English Channel.
16. James A. Bailey (1846-1906) - Promoter and co-owner of the Barnum & Bailey Circus
17. Robert Lehman (1892-1969) - A partner in the family financial firm of Lehman Brothers and major donor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
19. Jay Gould (1836-1892) - French financier.
20. F.W. Woolworth (1852-1919) - 5 & 10 cent Store founder
21. Barbara Hutton (1912 -1979) - Heiress to the F.W. Woolworth Fortune
22. Robert Moses (1881-1981) - NYC Parks Commissioner
23. Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont (1856-1908) - American socialite and U.S. Representative from New York, member of the banking firm of August Belmont and Co.
24. George Ehret (1835-1927) - New York Brewery Mogul
25. George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938) - Naturalist and founder of The Audubon Society.
Webster Ave & E 233rd St Bronx, New York
Jerome Avenue Entrance:
Jerome Ave & Bainbridge Ave Bronx, New York
Tel: 718.920.0500- 877.496.6352