Editor’s note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: The Historic Chapel in Green-Wood Cemetery
Address: Green-Wood Cemetery
Cross Streets: Entrance is on 5th Ave. at 25th Street
Neighborhood: Greenwood Heights/South Slope
Year Built: 1911
Architectural Style: Gothic
Architect: Warren & Wetmore
Other works by architect: Grand Central Station, Yale Club, NY Yacht Club, Helmsley Building, and other Beaux-Arts buildings in Manhattan and elsewhere
Landmarked: No. Entire cemetery is a National Historic Landmark (2006)
The story: I love this chapel. It is a beautiful building, inside and out. Coming up upon it, and seeing it in its full glory, while walking in Green-Wood is always a pleasant surprise. The chapel is a relatively late comer to the cemetery, which was established in 1838. Warren and Wetmore are major architects of the Beaux-Arts period, and are responsible for the designs of Grand Central Station, their masterpiece, as well as the Helmsley Building, smaller works such as Steinway Hall on 57th St, the NY Yacht Club, and the Yale Club. They were extremely well-connected, with an advantage in that the main designer, Whitney Warren, was a Vanderbilt cousin.
Since Green-Wood was New York City’s most prestigious cemetery, THE place to be seen, even dead, it is not too surprising that they would be chosen to build the chapel. Because it was meant to be multifunctional and non-denominational, the interior is a spare, but Gothic limestone space which serves to highlight the magnificent stained glass windows and the beautiful dome, further illuminated by a massive chandelier. The design is a reduced copy of Christopher Wren’s Thomas Tower at Christ Church College, Oxford, England.
Between the 1980’s and 2000, the chapel was closed for lack of use. It was also in need of repair. Funds were raised, and the chapel was restored in 2001. Today is now available for lectures, concerts, weddings, special functions, and of course, memorial services, funerals and interment ceremonies. We are fortunate that this beautiful building was not torn down, or allowed to deteriorate past the point of no return. It boggles the mind sometimes, how we as a city don’t see the importance of our historic buildings. But this one now shines, and is enjoyed by all who come into the cemetery. GMAP