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Day 1056

A good name

November 20th, 2014



We've left Beth Olom Cemetery, crossed the Jackie Robinson Parkway, and entered Hungarian Union Field Cemetery, which is now part of Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Day 1056

Portal of the day

November 20th, 2014



Exiting Beth Olom Cemetery

Day 1056

Emanuel Lasker

November 20th, 2014



Emanuel Lasker was one of the greatest chess players of all time, winning the world chess championship from William Steinitz in 1894 and holding onto it until 1921.

(As we learned when we saw Steinitz's grave in the Evergreens Cemetery, his 1894 loss to Lasker was the beginning of his mental troubles, at least according to the narrative of his 1900 NY Times obituary, and his defeat in a rematch a couple of years later triggered his rapid decline into insanity.)

Day 1056

MATZ

November 20th, 2014


Day 1056




Emma Lazarus (a first cousin of Benjamin Cardozo) was the author of "The New Colossus", the famous poem found inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, which reads in part:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
(The comma after "Keep" is missing from the versions of the poem on Liberty Island and at Ms. Lazarus's grave.)

The statue originally had nothing to do with immigration, however. It was the verses penned by Ms. Lazarus that eventually fixed it in the popular imagination as a beacon welcoming the tired and the poor of foreign lands to New York Harbor.

From the NY Times:
When the Goddess of Liberty was given to the United States, its donor's agenda was to burnish France's republican roots after the oppressive reign of Napoleon III and to celebrate the two nations' commitment to the principles of liberty.

The only immigrants mentioned at the dedication in 1886 were the "illustrious descendants of the French nobility" who fought on behalf of the United States against Britain during the American Revolution.

But it was the words of a fourth-generation American whose father was a wealthy sugar refiner and whose great-great-uncle welcomed George Washington to Newport, R.I., that almost single-handedly transformed the monumental statue in New York Harbor into the "Mother of Exiles" that would symbolically beckon generations of immigrants. . . .

Lazarus's "New Colossus," with its memorable appeal to "give me your tired, your poor," was commissioned for a fund-raising campaign by artists and writers to pay for the statue's pedestal.

But while the poem was critically acclaimed — the poet James Russell Lowell wrote that he liked it "much better than I like the Statue itself" because it "gives its subject a raison d'être which it wanted before quite as much as it wants a pedestal" — it was not even mentioned at the dedication ceremony.

Finally in 1903, after relentless lobbying by a friend of Lazarus who was descended from Alexander Hamilton, himself an immigrant, it was "affixed to the pedestal as an ex post facto inscription," the art historian Marvin Trachtenberg wrote.

Day 1056

The Stroocks

November 20th, 2014


Day 1056

TRUE GOOD PURE

November 20th, 2014


Day 1056

Benjamin Nathan

November 20th, 2014



The eponymous uncle of Benjamin Nathan Cardozo was the victim of a sensational, and still unsolved, murder — an assault that was "more atrocious and more shocking than any recent crime" and that left him "marred and mutilated out of semblance to his kind", according to an NY Times article from July 30, 1870, the day after he was killed.

Day 1056

Benjamin Nathan Cardozo

November 20th, 2014



The second Jewish Supreme Court justice

Day 1056

Uriah P. Levy

November 20th, 2014



The first Jewish commodore in the US Navy, Uriah Phillips Levy was a key figure in the push to abolish flogging — or "the barbarous practice of corporal punishment", as his grave monument puts it — in the Navy. (He was, however, once court-martialed for "scandalous and cruel conduct" for his implementation of an alternative punishment for a teenage boy on his ship who "was charged with mimicking an officer of the ship. Unwilling to flog the boy, Levy ordered him tied to a gun with his trousers lowered. A small quantity of tar, variously described as the size of a silver dollar to the size of a man's head, was applied with oakum to his buttocks along with some parrot feathers.")

Levy is best remembered for his role in saving Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. When he arranged to purchase the property from James Turner Barclay in 1834, eight years after Jefferson's death, the place was in a sorry state. Jefferson had been unable to afford upkeep on the house in his later years, and Barclay, a local druggist with "a hare-brained scheme of turning Monticello into a silkworm farm", allowed things to fall further into decline.

A great admirer of Jefferson*, Levy gathered "a small army" of hired workers and slaves to bring the house back to its former glory. In his will, he offered the property to the federal government for use as a farm school for children of deceased naval warrant officers. Shortly before his death in 1862, however, Monticello was seized by the Confederacy. The federal government did not accept Levy's bequest of the property, and his will was declared invalid in 1865, leaving the place in a state of legal limbo after the Civil War.

By the time Uriah's nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy gained control of the property in 1879 following a lengthy period of litigation, it had once again slid into disrepair. It was being used as a working farm, with grain stored in the house and cattle herded into the basement during winter. Like his uncle before him, Jefferson Levy began fixing up the house and grounds, with the intent of restoring them "to the original plans and style". In 1923, the year before his death, he sold Monticello to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (now the Thomas Jefferson Foundation), which has maintained it and kept it open to the public ever since.

* In 1834, Uriah Levy presented Congress with a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson he had commissioned. It was the first full-length portrait statue to be placed in the US Capitol, and is the only statue in the Capitol donated by an individual citizen. Levy gave the plaster model used to create the statue to the City of New York; it currently stands in the chamber of the City Council, where its presence has long been decried by former Councilman and current State Assemblyman Charles Barron, who has described Jefferson as a "white, slave-owning pedophile".

Day 1056

Tools of the trade

November 20th, 2014



Back in Beth Olom Cemetery

Day 1056

Epaminondas Schwakhammer!

November 20th, 2014



Here's one more shot from the artificial hill that stands on the former site of Banzer's Cypress Hills Park. While researching the park, I discovered that there used to be a Brooklyn neighborhood called Picklesville in the area of East Williamsburg/Bushwick. Some highlights from my subsequent quest for information about Picklesville:

  • A May 30, 1936 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article entitled "A Lot of Bologna, Indeed, Comes Out of Long Island in the Course of a Year—and the Whole World Eats It, Thick or Thin", part of a larger tribute to the industries of Long Island:
    Shortly before the turn of the century, the vicinity of Morgan Ave. and Rock St. was decidedly a rural section. The inhabitants who were mostly of German descent lived in trim bungalows along the tree-lined, level dirt streets. The chief activity of these German farmers was the raising of pickles for nearby metropolitan market, and consequently the neighborhood earned the appropriate if inelegant title of "Picklesville."
  • An October 5, 1883 NY Times article entitled "Two Irate Picklesvillians — True Love Pursuing the Traditional Erratic Course":
    Far over in the wilds of Brooklyn, away from the strife and turmoil of the city, is the little suburb of Picklesville . . . So rural is this place that no cars run through its quiet streets, beer saloons are infrequent, and the belated Picklesvillian going home from his business in the city at 9 o'clock at night discovers no signs of life in the deserted thoroughfares, save as the night-winds convey to his ears the tuneful breathing of the sleeping inhabitants. Even into so quiet a community as this, however, trouble may enter and dissensions lead to seemly squabbles. Within a week a scandal has arisen which has convulsed the entire district of Picklesville.
  • A February 2, 1890 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article entitled "Dogs of War Let Loose — Hostilities Renewed Between Picklesville and Elm Street":
    The casus belli is a question of territorial rights, the boys of Picklesville claiming that Picklesville includes the easterly side of Knickerbocker avenue and the Elm street men claiming that both sides of the street are included in their domain. The armies yesterday, equally matched, numbered about two thousand; the Picklesville forces, two divisions, under command of General John Seid, of 102 Central avenue, aged 17, and the Elm street forces, two divisions, under General Charles Engelhoffer, of 195 Ellery street, aged 11 years. Johnny Schneider, aged 13, commanded the right wing of the Picklesville forces and went early into action, or was rather drawn into it by the capture of all his pickets by Lieutenant Colonel Epaminondas Schwakhammer, aged 13, in command of the Elm street band of skirmishers. . . . General Seid, seeing that Schneider's command was in danger of being cut off and attacked in detail, dispatched his aide de camp, Diedrich Finnegan, with an order to fall back on the sand bank known as the Eagle's Nest, back of the Manhattan Avenue Railroad, beyond Irving avenue. On his way the aide de camp was struck with a tomato can, knocked down, taken prisoner, and the order fell into the hands of the enemy. The result foreseen by General Seid then took place. Schneider's command was cut off and most of them, after a terrible resistance, laid down their arms. While Seid with the main body of his forces was pressing on the cry of "Police" was raised, and the form of Officer John Ruoff looming up in the distance like Gulliver, the Liliputian [sic] armies became instantly a rabble rout.
  • A December 22, 1890 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article entitled "War on the City Frontier — It Is Brought to a Close by the Intervention of a Third Power":
    The war has been a protracted one, dating back over a year, the casus belli being the north side of Knickerbocker avenue . . . The contending forces came within sight of each other on Knickerbocker avenue, between Starr street and DeKalb avenue. The Picklesvillers, halting, were addressed by General Sauerbrod from the roof of a grocery coal bin. He said:

    "Men of Picklesville—I do not expect that words from me can impart valor to anyone who lacks it. The enemy is before us, but let the recollections of memorable deeds done by men of Picklesville in the past stimulate you to the achievement of greater things this day. Soldiers, from the cupola of yonder brewery twenty years look down upon you." . . .

    [After several of the boys were arrested and locked up for the night,] Justice Goetting this morning seemed at first determined to send the prisoners to the Fortress of Refuge till they were 21 years old, but finally let them off with a fine of $5 each.

Day 1056

Towering over tombstones

November 20th, 2014



The artificial hill on the former site of Banzer's Cypress Hills Park stands high above even the upper section of Cypress Hills National Cemetery.

Day 1056

Atop old Banzer’s Pond

November 20th, 2014



This steep-sided, flat-topped, unnatural-looking hill rises abruptly just beyond the western edge of Beth Olom Cemetery. Standing above the surrounding sea of burial grounds and the neighboring Ridgewood Reservoir, it's a very curious sight — the only piece of land in the vicinity that's not part of a cemetery or park.

It turns out that for about half a century, starting around 1877, this property was home to a privately run recreation area known as Cypress Hills Park. It was owned by the Banzer family but had different proprietors over the years, and so was also at times called Banzer's, Wissel's, Bookman's, Richter's, or Gerken's Park. A large U-shaped pond, used by boaters in the summer and ice skaters in the winter, was the dominant feature of the site (1924 aerial view), which also contained, by 1891, a pavilion, a bandstand, a dining room, four bowling alleys, and some popular shooting ranges where "some of the best rifle shots in the United States . . . [had] their regular practice days". (You can see old photos of the place here; scroll down about halfway.) The park's days came to an end around 1928, when the Banzers sold the land to its present owner, Temple Emanu-El, the Jewish congregation that also owns the adjacent Salem Fields Cemetery.

The pond was filled in sometime before 1951, although at least part of it still existed in 1937 when a 13-year-old boy drowned in it, an incident that prompted the boy's father to sue the synagogue. Over the years, it appears that Emanu-El used the site as a dumping ground for dirt and rocks — including, perhaps, some excavated material from the cemetery and/or other nearby cemeteries? — forming the hill that now stands here. An aerial view from 1996 shows a largely barren landscape with a path running up the hill, presumably for trucks and earth-moving equipment, while subsequent images from the past decade (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012) show trees springing up and the dirt paths gradually becoming overgrown.

Day 1056

Paradise on (in) earth

November 20th, 2014