Tag Archives: Greenwood Cemetery

Sacred Ground in New Orleans

Sacred Ground: The Cemeteries of New Orleans (stunning duotone photographs of New Orleans legendary cemeteries)Sacred Ground: The Cemeteries of New Orleans by Robert S. Brantley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a lot of cemetery books. I even have a lot of books about the cemeteries of New Orleans. This one is a worthy addition to my library because it goes off in a direction none of the others do. The photographer allowed himself to become obsessed by some of the grave monuments he photographed to the point that he wanted to know who these people were. The stories he uncovers are fascinating, touching, and range far beyond the famous names you would expect. Soldiers, duelists, priests, bankers, violin makers, opera singers, firemen, and more: these people each contributed to the history of this special city, even if their names are no longer widely known.

The black and white photographs, while exquisitely shot, do not stray as far from the usual subjects. Some of that is because St. Louis Cemetery #1 is so well documented, but even the photos of Metairie and Lafayette #1 are common to many other cemetery books. Still, the way many of the photos are taken–emphasizing the dramatic Louisiana skies–made me long to return to New Orleans and see those sights for myself. I think I will spend a lot of time gazing at these pictures.

One of my favorite parts of the photographic section of the book is the way that the repeating motifs are collected together, so the reader can appreciate the iconography of benevolent society tombs or the variations of ornate ironwork crosses or the artistry in all the different styles of urns. New Orleans was truly blessed by the gifts of its sculptors.

The essay which closes the book allows Brantley to explain his relationship to the artwork and architecture he has captured. He speaks of the cemetery as an outdoor museum. His photography certainly proves his point.

If you don’t have any books on the cemeteries of New Orleans, this is a good place to start. If you do, this will be a nice addition to your collection. You can pick up your own copy of this brand-new book from Amazon: https://amzn.to/339O2JF

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Obligatory notice: I received a copy of this book from the publishers, but chose to review it on my own.

An advertisement for the New Orleans Cemeteries

Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Journey Through the Cities of the DeadCemeteries of New Orleans: A Journey Through the Cities of the Dead by Jan Arrigo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is full of lovely color photographs of the cemeteries of New Orleans. From the frontispiece of the sunset burning behind the crosses of Greenwood to the warm golden light haloing the Madonnas of Metairie, photographer Laura A. McElroy perfectly encapsulates the peace and beauty of these wonderful places. There may be no better advertisement for visiting, supporting, and restoring these historic graveyards.

McElroy also does a good job of catching people and their relationships with the graveyards of New Orleans, from caretakers and families tending graves to costumed tour guides to runners in Metairie’s Race through History. In fact, I’d love to see her shoot a book full of people visiting graves: she has a real knack for capturing the importance of these places to the living.

My favorite chapter of the book is the final one, which visits the Bayou cemeteries. McElroy captures the candle-lined tombs of Les Toussaints les Lumieres du Morte, the Louisiana version of Dia de los Muertos. Everything looks so warm and otherworldly.

Unfortunately, the text doesn’t hold up next to the photos. It consists of extremely short essays of questionable accuracy: the St. Roch essay says Father Thevis vowed to built the chapel in 1876, when in fact that was the year it was completed. Later one of the Jewish cemeteries is referred to as Dispursed of Judah. To be honest, though, if you’re buying a book about the history of the New Orleans cemeteries, it wouldn’t be this one. You’ll want with more meat like Life in the Cities of the Dead by Robert Florence.

Cemeteries of New Orleans is out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Cemetery of the Week #97: New Orleans’ Greenwood Cemetery

Rhoads Greenwood IMG_2266Greenwood Cemetery
5200 Canal Boulevard (but the entrance I used was on Metairie Road)
New Orleans, Louisiana 70124
Telephone: (504) 482-8983
Founded: 1852
Size: 150 acres
Number of tombs: approximately 20,500
Open: Good question. The hours posted on Wikipedia are wrong and the cemetery’s homepage doesn’t list any hours at all. I visited on a Sunday, when the cemetery gate was open and a fair number of visitors bustled in and out, despite threatening skies and the occasional downpour. You might want to call first.

As you take the Ponchartrain Expressway into New Orleans, Greenwood Cemetery is the first graveyard you see. More than a hundred acres of family tombs and association crypts provide the visitor with a lot of wistful beauty to ponder.

Rhoads Greenwood IMG_2245Sister to the older Cypress Grove Cemetery across the street, Greenwood Cemetery was also founded by the Fireman’s Charitable and Benevolent Association. In the 19th century, firemen in New Orleans were businessmen who volunteered to keep the city safe. The towering Fireman’s Monument greets visitors with a finely carved young man in a sweeping hat, carrying a hose at the ready. The 46-foot-tall Gothic Revival monument was designed by Charles Orleans, while the statue was executed by Alexander Doyle and carved by Carlo Nicoli. Erected in 1887, it honors firemen who died at their posts before the creation of the professional fire department in 1891. Its base bears the names of 23 volunteer fire companies.

The Elks tumulus

The Elks tumulus

Near the Fireman’s Monument stands a manmade hill or tumulus crowned by the bronze figure of an elk. The Benevolent Protective Order of Elks (or BPOE) Lodge 30 provided burial space for members who had nowhere else to go. Inside the mound lie 18 burial vaults. It was erected in 1912.

On the interstate side of the cemetery stands the first Civil War memorial erected in New Orleans. Designed by Achille Perelli, an anonymous seven-foot-tall infantryman stands atop a pedestal above busts of Generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Leonidas Polk, and Albert Sidney Johnson. The monument cost nearly $12,000 in 1874 (still the carpetbag era), which was collected by the Ladies’ Benevolent Association. Its low tumulus is the final resting place of 600 Confederate soldiers.

The first Civil War monument in New Orleans

The first Civil War monument in New Orleans

Cast-iron tomb

Cast-iron tomb

Greenwood Cemetery has several wonderful examples of cast-iron tombs, which I’d never seen anywhere. Some are in rough shape, perhaps from being inundated when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Miltenberger tomb, with its three-dimensional angel guiding a soul to heaven, is a prime example.

Greenwood is the final home to two Confederate generals – Young Marshall Moody and Thomas Moore Scott – as well as Union general William Plummer Benton. It contains the graves of two New Orleans mayors, Abial Daily Grossman (who led the city during its worst yellow fever epidemics) and John Fitzpatrick (who served during the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow years).

John Kennedy Toole's grave

John Kennedy Toole’s grave

Greenwood’s most famous resident is John Kennedy Toole, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces. He is buried in his mother’s tomb on the Latanier path between the Hawthorne and Magnolia Walks. Her tomb is marked Ducoing.  From the Cemeteries streetcar on Canal Street, you enter the cemetery at the caretaker’s building and turn right. The names of the paths are stenciled on the curb. Latanier is almost the final path before you reach the cemetery’s edge.

As always in New Orleans’ cemeteries, be aware. When I visited, there was such a good stream of people in and out that I never felt unsafe.  All the same, be careful how you wander.

Useful links:

Greenwood Cemetery history and homepage

A map of Greenwood, Metairie, and the other local cemeteries

The NOLA Cemeteries entry on Greenwood

GPS information provided by CemeteryRegistry.us

Other New Orleans cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Week #6: St. Louis Cemetery #1

Week #16: Metairie Cemetery

Week #77: Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans cemetery books reviewed on Cemetery Travel:

New Orleans Cemeteries (Images of America)

New Orleans Cemeteries: Life in the Cities of the Dead

New Orleans Architecture vol. 3: the Cemeteries