New Yorkers have always been pressed for space in life and in death. Central Park is synonymous with New York City. But without Green-Wood Cemetery, located in South Brooklyn, Central Park would have never existed. Founded in 1838, Green-Wood became the city’s most popular tourist attraction. The cemetery was so popular that urban planners challenged architects to come up with plans for a separate green-space for Manhattan. Hence, both Central Park, founded in 1857, and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, in 1867, were born.
Green-Wood presented not only a place to bury the dead but a meditative haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Other cemeteries followed in the park style, including Sleepy Hollow and Woodlawn. New York’s changing cultural landscape made Ferncliff Cemetery one of the most coveted places to spend eternity, with the rising popularity of Westchester County and suburban living. New Yorkers even secured a place for the four-legged members of the family with Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, now the largest and oldest pet cemetery in the United States.
From the movers and shakers of New York society, to corrupt political bosses and mafiosi, Jazz legends, and a Brooklyn native son who returned to Green-Wood as one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, the stories of the permanent residents of these cemeteries are just as diverse and vibrant as the city itself. To travel through the cemeteries of New York is to travel through the hidden history of what some consider to be the greatest city in the world.
Jessica Ferri started her career in publishing at FSG. Since 2009, she's been a freelance writer and work has been published by The New Yorker’s Page Turner Blog, The Economist, NPR, Yahoo!, Bustle, Time Out New York, The Lineup, The Barnes and Noble Review, and TheDaily Beast, where she is a regular contributor on books.
Jessica has always harbored a passion for the macabre, whether it be horror movies, cemeteries, true crime, haunted histories, Charles Addams, the list goes on. She launched Dearly Departed as a travelogue through Instagram, where she chronicled the incredible cemeteries she’d visit along with their unique and largely forgotten stories. The project immediately garnered the interest of a niche but very dedicated community of people who are fascinated by cemeteries and the secrets they hold.