All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Legends of Sleepy Hollow

An infrared photo of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

I went on a tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, as a sort of Halloween excursion. I wanted to photograph it, and it's so large a guide seemed like a good idea. It was. The guide was a fount of fascinating information on the cemetery and the people buried in it.

Sleepy Hollow is best known from the Washington Irving short story. He spent part of his childhood in the area, probably playing on the land that would eventually become Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

The Pocantico River runs alongside the cemetery, near the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground, just as in the story. (The Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground is adjacent to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; indeed, you can't tell where one begins and the other ends.)

The town wasn't called Sleepy Hollow in Irving's day. In fact, the name of the town was changed from North Tarrytown to Sleepy Hollow sometime in the 1990s - to take advantage of Irving's fame.

Washington Irving's grave:

His headstone is rounded, unlike the others, because so many of his fans chipped pieces off his headstone as souvenirs. After replacing the stone twice, his family decided to install a rounded headstone, to make it harder to chip off pieces.

Near Irving's grave is this "brick grave":

Some families could not afford separate graves for each person who died. They would opt for "brick graves" instead. The grave was dug as usual, and lined with brick. Then doors were placed over it. When someone died, he or she would be placed in the grave, and the doors closed. No coffin, no dirt. The body would decompose rapidly because of that, so there was always room for more. Many family members could thus be buried in the same grave.

According to the guide, several trends of the Victorian era converged to change the way people thought about cemeteries. Before then, the belief was that when someone died, everything stopped for them. It was like being turned off, until the end of days, when the dead would be resurrected. Graves were therefore simple and crowded, with people buried close together and facing east (because Christ was supposed to appear in the east when he returned). People didn't visit graves, so little consideration was given to the experience of the living.

That changed in the Victorian era. The industrial revolution was making some people very wealthy and powerful, and they wanted their graves to reflect their importance. The rise of spiritualism led to the belief that the dead, rather than lying insensate until resurrected in the flesh, were aware and could communicate with the living. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was one of the first in the nation that was meant for living rather than just the dead, and the idea was so revolutionary and popular that people from all over the country wanted to be buried there.

Obelisks were popular, because of the Egyptian fashion of the times.

The cloth motif is common. It's supposed to mean that the veil between the living and the dead is very thin.

The memorial to the Revolutionary War dead:

It's built on the original fortifications that defended Tarrytown.

The mausoleum of Walter S. Gurnee, one time mayor of Chicago.

The guide was astonished that Gurnee would want to be buried in New York, since back then, it was quite a schlep from Chicago. But he was born in New York (in Haverstraw, across the Hudson River from Sleepy Hollow), so perhaps it was family ties as much as the new-fangled cemetery that attracted him.

Hey, look, Bubba has New York roots!

Not really...but all Crosbys in North America are related.

This monument, for one Owen Jones (not the architect, but a guy who got rich in the retail business), features a life-size statue of the deceased. It was put up by his bereaved wife. (Their kids squandered their inheritances and sued their mom to get her portion.)

Draper Daniels' mausoleum:

Daniels is supposedly the guy Don Draper of Mad Men was based on. He was brilliant, and is remembered as the creator of the Marlboro cigarette ads. He died of lung cancer.

This is where they kept bodies when they couldn't yet be buried (because the ground was frozen, or the mausoleum wasn't finished, etc.) It's no longer used, now that we have refrigeration. The exterior was used in Dark Shadows, as Barnabus Collins' mausoleum.

The grave of Francis Pharcellus Church, the author of the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" editorial.

Andrew Carnegie has a surprisingly simple monument. Just a Celtic-style cross, in a little glade of its own. He and his wife are buried in front of the cross, and around the edges of the glade are the graves of several servants who apparently didn't have family who were able or willing to pay for their burial.

John Dustin Archbold's mausoleum:

All in all, a very interesting place. It's beautiful in autumn. I recommend the tour wholeheartedly.

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posted by BubbaFan, 11:44 PM


I am so glad I found your blog on Sleepy Hollow! I visited this fascinating place in October of 2014 and also was in a photographer's heaven. The one grave that for some reason I did not photograph was the Brick Grave. I have often thought back on it with curiousity, wondering what the story was behind it because it was so different from the other graves. Thank you so much for satisfying this curiousity with your post!
commented by Anonymous Elisabeth, February 10, 2015 2:16 PM  

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