Tombstone Tourism

By Jones, Malcolm | Newsweek, October 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Tombstone Tourism


Jones, Malcolm, Newsweek


Byline: Malcolm Jones

A second life for cemeteries.

A Gravediggers' Ball in Philadelphia's Laurel Hill Cemetery. Pumpkin carving in the Sleepy Hollow graveyard. Open-air movies in a Los Angeles cemetery. Is this any way to honor the dead? If you're one of the dozens of executives who oversee the nation's most storied bone orchards, the answer is a resounding yes.

In August 1999, Richard J. Moylan, president of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, had an epiphany. In Baltimore on business, he took the afternoon off to visit that city's Green Mount Cemetery. "It was a Saturday, a bright, sunny day," he recalls. But despite the excellent weather and the well-tended grounds, "there was no one around." Then and there he resolved, "This must never happen in Brooklyn." He kept his promise.

Until the mid-'90s, Green-Wood often turned visitors away if they had no kin buried there. Now thousands pour through the cemetery's gates each year to take tours, check out the graves of long-gone celebrities (Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed), and even hear live music: Green-Wood recently scheduled a concert complete with grand piano at the grave site of 19th-century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

Green-Wood is not unique. In the last decade, people across the country have begun flocking to these old necropolises, lured by everything from photography workshops to movies--Hollywood Forever, a Los Angeles cemetery, hosts a popular film series in which visitors are encouraged to picnic while they watch old movies projected on the wall of a mausoleum. …

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