Monday, November 16, 2009

Cypress Hills National Cemetery: Amplification

Cypress Hills National Cemetery vs. Cypress Hills Cemetery

Amplification and correction.

I don't blame the book since the situation out there in cemetery land can be very confusing.

I relied on a sidebar in The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn for my information on Cypress Hills National Cemetery. The sidebar is titled: Cypress Hills Cemetery. The first sentence explains that Cypress Hills Cemetery was made a part of the National Cemetery System in 1862 and is the only national cemetery in New York City. After that it goes on to mention the famous people buried there, the ones I mentioned in the last posting.

The trouble is that the are two similarly named cemeteries: Cypress Hills National Cemetery, which I visited and photographed, and Cypress Hills Cemetery (without the "National"), which is further north, up the hill among the other cemeteries located in the area. See the map below; please click on it to make it readable.

It's even a bit more confusing than that because what became Cypress Hills National Cemetery was once a part of the original Cypress Hills Cemetery. The VA homepage for the cemetery gives some good background information.

Cypress Hills National Cemetery

And a further complication is that even if Cypress Hills Cemetery was the one meant, only two of the people mentioned are actually buried in that cemetery.

From two other valuable sources, Find a Grave and Jewish Cemeteries in the New York Metropolitan Area, I was able to piece together the following:

Mae West: Cypress Hills Cemetery
Jackie Robinson: Cypress Hills Cemetery
Emma Lazarus: Beth Olom Cemetery
Sholom Aleichem: Mt. Carmel Cemetery
Edward G. Robinson: Beth El Cemetery (New Union Field Cemetery)
Harry Houdini: Machpelah Cemetery

Lou Gehrig: nowhere near here. He is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, up in Westchester County.

Beth Olom Cemetery is not shown on the map but the address given for it is 2 Cypress Hills Street, so it may be a part of one of the others, perhaps Shearith Israel, but that's just a guess at the moment.

A few of shots of Salem Fields Cemetery along Jamaica Avenue.

Even along Jamaica Avenue they seemed to go on forever and I am only talking about only a few cemeteries along that street, I can only imagine what it looks like further north.

And I didn't even walk down the whole length of them, I cut down into Cypress Hills before I was even a quarter of the way down along Jamaica Avenue.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brooklyn War Memorials IV and Cypress Hills

Highland Park - Cypress Hills

Our old friend Pietro Montana who was so busy in the early 1920s producing monuments in Bushwick, later in the decade moved further out into Cypress Hills to create “Dawn of Glory” in Highland Park said, by my historical society’s booklet, to represent “a soldier’s dream.” I presume it means the figure represents a soldier dreaming, not the dream of the soldier, or they were more broadminded than I thought in 1925.

So, an unseasonably warm November Sunday called for a walk out Broadway to Highland Park and Cypress Hills. Below, the descent into Highland Park from Highland Blvd.

The booklet also says that there should be a bronze tablet on the back listing the names of 108 young men from the Cypress Hills section who died in the army and the navy from 1917-1918. That is no longer there; no doubt filched at some point for the price of the bronze. The monument was dedicated in July 1925.

The statue is striking but just as striking is the setting. Highland Park lies along the border between the Bushwick and Cypress Hills neighborhoods and tumbles down that great glacial ridge that forms the east-west spine of Brooklyn, from the cemeteries in Bushwick down into Cypress Hills. The statue is located in the lower portion of the park along Jamaica Avenue with a broad hillside of foliage forming the backdrop.

Besides the actual park of that name, there is an area called Highland Park that is part of Cypress Hills but my impression is that they may feel as much a part of Cypress Hills as Riverdale feels a part of the Bronx. Along Highland Blvd. at the top of the hill looking down on the park are large comfortable looking homes while Cypress Hills itself at the base of Hillside Park is a neighborhood of row houses and small homes.

Highland Blvd. (above), Richmond St. (below)

This is definitely New York’s cemetery land. Surrounding Highland Park are around fifteen different cemeteries. The only one I visited was Cypress Hills National Cemetery (Brooklyn’s own little Arlington) that lies along Jamaica Avenue next to Highland Park.

There was supposed to be another memorial dating from World War I there. It’s a very peaceful place (not that you find many really noisy cemeteries), just row on row of small white grave markers, each itself marked with a small flag, broken here and there by a more individual stone. It was declared a national cemetery during the Civil War and some of the earliest grave sites are of Confederate and Union soldiers.

The memorial to the “twenty-five sailors of the French fleet who died while on duty in American waters during the World War 1914-1918” is a large cross on the hillside near the back of the cemetery.

It was dedicated by the France American Society. So, I suppose Justice Scalia finally got his cross, though one memorializing only twenty-five specific French citizens who were probably Catholics anyway.

Also said to be buried in Cypress Hills, among others, are Mae West, Edward G. Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, and Harry Houdini. Emma Lazarus, the author of the poem inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty is buried there as is Sholom Aleichem. For an amplification and correction of this information please see the posting of Nov. 16.

There was also supposed to be a small memorial in Salem Field Cemetery, which is next to Cypress Hills National Cemetery on Jamaica Avenue, but the gates of that cemetery were firmly locked and the cemetery is well fenced in. However, near the front is an enormous column topped by an eagle in flight, a memorial to the soldiers of the Civil War.

And in front of that is a marker that looks suspiciously like what my historical society booklet describes as “a bronze tablet on a low slanting granite base . . .” erected by the Veteran Corps in memory of soldiers of the Hebrew faith who served in the World War, 1917-1918.

Cypress Hills, like Bushwick, forms one part of the far eastern edge of Brooklyn. Eldert Lane is the border between Brooklyn and Queens in that area. On the edge of Brooklyn that's Eldert Lane below seen from Ridgewood Avenue; Queens is on the other side of the traffic lights.

Having gotten all the way out there, I decided to walk over to Eldert Lane so I could say I had walked to the edge of the borough. I wandered back along Atlantic Avenue, the border between Cypress Hills and East New York (below).

Click on this link to map these memorials.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


As I said, thank god for the weather since that took a lot of the sting out of my lackluster performance today in tracking down these memorials. Below, some random shots from today's walk when I wasn't snapping pictures of plaques and flagpoles. As always, click on a photo for a larger view.

Prospect Park, in particular is beautiful around this time of the year and my walk around (most of) the lake was enjoyable.

And, despite having been through the
Sunset Park neighborhood on many occasions over the summer, today was actually the first time I was in Sunset Park itself. Talk about some views. Whew!

Fort Hamilton Parkway is always a pleasant place to walk, whether up by Ocean Parkway, alongside Green-Wood Cemetery (below), or further west toward Bay Ridge.

A Borough Park landmark, St. Catherine of Alexandria Church on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

On a day like this I probably should have taken the time to take more photographs but I didn't get back home until twilight as it was, so hadn't a lot of time for dallying around.

Because I added a Sunday entry to yesterday's memorial post rather than wait another week or two, I'll add a corresponding "compensation" here from my walk today (Sunday), which is the old Boys High School in Brooklyn, on Marcy Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A gorgeous Romanesque style building dating to 1892. Please clik on the link below for some background on it.

Boys High School of Brooklyn

Also a very pretty row of houses on St. Mark's Avenue between Brooklyn and Kingston Avenues, across from Brower Park.

Brooklyn War Memorials III

Thank god it was a nice day for a walk is all I can say; one of those clear, cool, crisp, sunny November days that make a walk out of doors a pure joy. Because that’s almost all I got for my efforts today: a nice walk outside.

I wanted to track down a few more of these war memorials and I chose some that I was certain would be in situ as they say. I guess that two out of four isn’t terrible; not great, but not terrible.


There is another armory at Atlantic and Bedford Avenues in Bed-Stuy. I have to admit I had no idea that Brooklyn alone boasts so many. I know there is one in South Williamsburg, there is the one in Park Slope, and I have yet to get to another Bed-Stuy armory on Marcus Garvey Blvd., not to mention National Guard armories.

This is the 23rd Regiment Armory. On the outside wall to the right of the entrance is very large bronze tablet commemorating the men of the regiment who gave their lives in the war. Depicted is a battlefield scene, men charging out of a trench. The inscription reads: In commemoration of the men of this regiment who gave their lives in the World War. Also listed are twelve battles that the regiment fought in, among the Ypres, the Somme, and the Hindenburg Line.

There is no indication on the tablet or in my sources as to the date the memorial was installed.

Borough Park

I don’t know what the problem is with these triangular slivers of municipal property that are dedicated in commemoration of individuals or soldiers in general, but they always appear forgotten, unkempt and seedy. It’s funny, too, that they always seem to be up against an elevated highway or elevated subway line. It’s as if once they’re dedicated, everyone forgets about them.

Alben Square is formed by the crossing of 46th Street, 11th Avenue, and new Utrecht Avenue in Borough Park. It’s a block from Fort Hamilton Avenue and the D train station there, and despite its name it is a triangle, not a square. And as you can see, it really does sit “in the shadow” of the elevated tracks


There is a flag pole in the center of the triangle with a tablet mounted on the pole’s concrete base. By enlarging the photo I took, I was just able to make out the words. You can’t read it while you are actually there because the tablet is so dark as to be almost indecipherable. Also there is an iron fence completely surrounding it with chains locking what look like gates on either side. I probably could have climbed over, the fence isn’t that high, and I doubt that anyone would have given me a second glance. But somehow it just didn’t seem worth the trouble.

The memorial was erected by the Private Budd H. Alben Post of the V.F.W. in 1935. The inscription reads: Erected in memory of the Veterans of Boro Park who made the supreme sacrifice. At the top is the phrase “Lest We Forget.”

I didn't think there was much sense in holding the following for another post because It will be at least a week if not longe before I get out again. Sunday's weather being as superb as Saturday's, I went out in the afternoon to see another nearby memorial I had inexplicably missed (probably coming within a few blocks of it on any number of occasions).

Bedford-Stuyvesant once again

Now, this is what I call an armory. I can imagine this place stocked with weapons; not small arms and rifles but mauls and maces, halberds and pikes, swords, shields, and chain mail. It looks like the lair of the Baron of Bed-Stuy. The Atlantic Ave. armory is oppressively large, this one is perfect.

It was the home of the 13th Regiment (254 Coast Artillery) of the New York National Guard. It is now the headquarters of the Black Veterans for Social Justice which helps with temporary housing for homeless men, vocational training, employment referrals, and so on.

The memorial to the men of the Coastal Artillery who died in the war is a free-standing granite one that stands behind a fence in front of the building. It is very large and contains an enormous number of names and other information in very small type on a central bronze panel. In fact, I'm not sure if all the names are of individuals who died in the war or just served in the war. It seems like an awful lot of names from one group. The historical society's booklet simply calls it an honor roll. The bronze is so weather-worn that it's hard to decipher some parts.

On either side of the central panel are two more depiciting battlefield scenes, one of which is shown above.

This was also behind a high fence that I had to stretch over the top of on tip-toe to try to get the shots. It needs a good cleaning and is also starting to come off the wall in the upper right. A few small pieces at the bottom in the center also look like they're missing.

A Map showing the location of these memorials

What Couldn’t I Find?

Along the way from the Atlantic Avenue armory to Borough Park, I cut through Prospect Park. I had to stop at the library anyway. It seemed a good opportunity to search for the monument that is supposed to be along the lake. My source describes it as a

crescent-shaped granite monument with a heroic bronze group and six bronze tablets, by Augustus Lukeman with Daniel Chester French associated with him

Now that sounds like too large a group to have disappeared or been removed. But I walked all around that damn lake this afternoon and couldn’t find a trace of it. I am thinking it has got to be there and I’m just not seeing it for some reason. I don’t know Augustus Lukeman but no one gets rid of something Daniel Chester French had a hand in. And it’s not like Prospect Park is getting crowded and they needed the room. I’ll find it if it is there.

I was disappointed, too, at not finding the bronze plaque on the four-foot-high granite base that was supposed to be at the head of the steps leading up into Sunset Park from Fifth Avenue, but that wasn’t there either. I suppose it could have been relocated to another part of the park, which is pretty large. Another trip back there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brooklyn's War Memorials II

Just a short note before moving on to the next group of memorials: at the end of this post you may link to a map showing all the locations covered in Brooklyn War Memorials I and II.


A bit sad, too, is Zion Triangle, a dreary, cracked concrete covered sliver of park at the intersection of East New York Avenue and Pitkin Avenue near the northern edge of Brownsville, just down the hill from Eastern Parkway. It didn’t exactly help to lift my spirits that the day I visited was chilly and cloudy and that there is a lot of construction equipment parked along the East New York Avenue side.

It’s hard to tell whether anyone takes particular care of the memorial. I would guess not. But the general area looks clean and swept and the little shrubbery nearby looks trimmed. There are park benches along both sides so it’s no doubt kept clean for the use of the neighborhood. But it doesn’t look like the kind of place where anyone is going to leave the kind of red, white, and blue wreathes that I saw in front of the Fighting Doughboy. Then again, many monuments are decorated on Veterans Day and Memorial Day even if at no other time of the year, and this one may be.

But it’s too bad that it’s not better cared for because the names of the 92 Brownsville men memorialized are still clear and legible on both sides of the monument and surely their memories deserve some respect.

As the name of the park indicates, most though not all the men memorialized were Jewish (though the park name came before the monument). The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn mentions that at the turn of the 20th century Brownsville was called the “Jerusalem of America.” And one of the sponsors of the memorial was the Jewish Veteran of the Wars of the Republic. The other groups involved were the Citizens Memorial Committee, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The limestone memorial occupies one entire end of the park and is approached by broad shallow steps; the space in front is flanked by two walls about a foot high. The central portion of the monument shows, in bas-relief, a winged female figure brandishing a sword and shield. Inscribed on the limestone walls on either side of the central figure are the names of the men honored.

Facing out on one of the small walls is carved the Star of David; on the other side is the Great Seal of the United States, both in pretty good shape considering that the memorial was unveiled in 1925, but limestone is said to stand up well to exposure.

It looks like there might have been some kind of upright pillar or post on either corner at the front but all that remains on one side is a stub and nothing on the other side.

Park Slope

An ideal location for a war memorial is occupied by the larger than life bronze figure of a charging soldier in front of the 14th Regiment Armory on Eighth Avenue at 14th Street in Park Slope. It dates from 1923 and is dedicated to the men of the 14th Infantry who were engaged in the war.

I like the medieval castle architecture of the typical armory and it provides a perfect setting for a statue like this, but see one armory and you’ve pretty much seen them all. The Park Slope building isn’t bad as armories go, not as overwhelming as others I’ve seen around Brooklyn. It fits the neighborhood well.

If the inscriptions sound a bit high flown and poetic it’s because they’re from poems entitled “Marco Bozzaris” (Strike for your altars) by Fitz-Greene Halleck, a now mostly forgotten 19th century American poet who was known in his time as the American Byron; and The Lays of Ancient Rome (And how can man die better) by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Carroll Gardens

Carroll Park, between Court and Smith Streets in Carroll Gardens boasts an impressive monument dedicated to 187 men from that district who lost their lives in the war. It consists of a tall granite shaft faced with four bronze plaques.

One plaque features a sailor, another a soldier, and the other two sides feature the names of the memorialized men. It was erected in 1921 by the Memorial Committee of the 8th Assembly District.

It is an imposing monument but brought down to size by it’s setting, the wide plaza surrounding it and the old growth trees towering over it. The plaques were designed by Eugene H. Morahan.

Downtown Brooklyn

A simple granite monument stands outside McLaughlin Park at the corner of Tillary Street and Flatbush Avenue near the approach to the Manhattan Bridge.

It features an eagle with spread wings carved into the surface of the stone and the names of sixty nine men inscribed on the front and rear. It was erected by the Seawanhaka Democratic Club in 1919. It’s a clean, unassuming memorial set back slightly from the street and flanked by two rows of upended artillery shells, an interesting touch.


Memorial Gore (formerly Woodpoint Gore), is another splendid little sliver of land where Bushwick Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Maspeth Avenue, Humboldt Street, and Woodpoint Road collide and fight it out among themselves in Williamsburg. As apt as it sounds for a war memorial, this isn’t the gore of Patriotic Gore, blood and gore, or even Al Gore. Gore in this case comes from an Old English word “gara” meaning just a triangular piece of land There is also Cuyler Gore in Fort Greene, a very pleasant park despite the name.

This isn’t really my favorite among all these memorials. For one, it’s in a very inconvenient place, isolated in the middle of some very heavily trafficked streets and not easy to get to. No matter where I was standing one line of traffic always seemed to have a green light so I couldn't cross.

And when you get over to it, it’s still inaccessible. Most of the other memorials, even if fenced in, let you get close enough to them at least to read any inscriptions, This one is placed just far enough away from each side, and behind iron fences and shrubbery just high enough, to pretty much block any good view. The only way I could get any shots was to wrap the camera cord around my wrist, stick my arms through the fence, try to hold the camera straight, and hope for the best.

And I’m just not crazy about that triangular column with the globe with the smaller globe with the eagle. It reminds me of a geometry exercise or a child's toy.

Still, all of that no doubt helped to keep it in pristine condition. And it is still there, something you can’t say about Novelli's work in Saratoga Square Park. It was erected in 1921 to memorialize the “patriotism and devotion of the men of the 13th Assembly District,” who served in the war in 1917-1918. The names of 83 men are inscribed on the shaft. The sculptors were the Piccirilli Bros.

More after my next foray out into this beautiful borough. Maybe I will wait until after Veterans Day to see which monuments were decorated for the occasion.

P.S. Still no crosses, Justice Scalia.

A map of the locations in Brooklyn War Memorials I & II