Picturesque and Grim: Running around Green-Wood

If you are looking for an alternative to running the 3.35-mile loop in Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is one option that is very close by. The perimeter of Green-Wood is a decent 3.5 mile run that can be run on its own, or add it onto your Prospect Park run to go for longer distances with a change of scenery. You’ll find some significant changes in elevation, see some fascinating and beautiful monuments as well as what must be some of the most majestic trees in all of New York City.

Now before you criticize me for suggesting such a disrespectful route (or morbid to some), keep in mind that Green-Wood was designed at a time when Victorians used cemeteries such as this one much like public parks. In the 19th Century, Green-Wood was a very popular tourist attraction, eventually influencing the development of Central Park some years later. It is also the final resting place of many famous – and often very wealthy – New Yorkers and also the site of a lot of history.

A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
Sandwiched between the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Borough Park, Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, Green-Wood is situated on a hill which is the highest point in Brooklyn. It is also the site of the Battle of Long Island (often referred to as the Battle of Brooklyn), which took place during the Revolutionary War on August 27, 1776. At the top of Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery stands a statue of Minerva commemorating the battle. Minerva faces the harbor with her arm raised in salute to the Statue of Liberty. (You may recall that this was the center of a real estate development dispute a couple years ago, where a proposed building would block their line of sight. Fortunately, Lady Liberty and Minerva can still see each other from across the water and it looks like it will stay that way.)

Green-Wood was then established as a cemetery in 1838 and quickly became the fashionable place to be buried. Mausoleums, statues and other grand monuments can be found all over the 478-acre property. Among the nearly 600,000 permanent residents are Samuel F.B. Morse, Louis Comfort Tiffany, several members of Theodore Roosevelt’s family, Henry and William Steinway of piano fame, and Peter Cooper. Many celebrities and artists were also buried here in more recent years, such as Leonard Bernstein, Fred Ebb and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Also among those buried here is Boss Tweed, whose imprisonment you can learn a little more about if you read my post on Running Roosevelt Island. It’s amazing how history can follow you around this city.

THE ROUTE
It is still an active cemetery and there are some rules that come along with it, so note that jogging in the cemetery is not allowed. This route follows the roads and sidewalks around the perimeter of the cemetery property. Click here for the map.

You can start at the gate located where 20th Street and Prospect Park West meet. If you are running from Prospect Park at the corner of 15th Street, note that the distance from the park to Green-Wood along Prospect Park West is approximately 0.4 miles. Run along 20th Street and follow the perimeter of the cemetery until you complete the loop. For the sake of clarity here, I will describe some of the sights as you come across them in a counter-clockwise direction from this point.

Running along 20th Street, be aware that the sidewalk is not in the best condition so watch your footing. This is also an area where it might be tricky to run two abreast if you are out there with a partner. Conditions improve as you turn left onto 7th Avenue and then eventually wend your way to 5th Avenue. Once you arrive at 25th Street you’ll see the impressive Gothic revival main entrance to the cemetery. (Unfortunately, on this most recent visit, the gate was covered up for restoration.) As you continue along 5th Avenue you can really begin to see the rolling hills that are part of the property. Yes, this really still is Brooklyn.

Green-Wood from 5th Avenue

As you turn left onto 36th Street, however, the sidewalk along the cemetery property disappears. Instead of trying to run on this sliver of grass, simply cross the street and use the sidewalk on the other side.

Green-Wood, 36th Street

Some of these monuments are truly amazing to see.

Mausoleums Near 37th Street
This continues all along this stretch until you reach Fort Hamilton Parkway. As you take a left onto the Parkway, the sidewalk along the perimeter of the cemetery property returns and is in excellent condition. Continue making left turns until you reach 20th Street and until you are back where you started at the gate at Prospect Park West. Note, however, that the sidewalk disappears again when you reach 20th Street. If you choose to run along the dirt path, watch your footing or cross to the other side of the street.

TOURING THE CEMETERY

Since you won’t be able to explore the grounds during your run, come back another time to take a tour of the cemetery or take part in their events. As a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System, it’s also a great place for bird-watching. For more information, visit the Green-Wood Historic Fund‘s website.

HOW TO GET THERE
You have a few options by subway, each of which will get you started at a different point around the loop:

  • F or G train to 15th Street Prospect Park stop or the Fort Hamilton Parkway stop
  • M or R train to 25th Street
  • M, R, D or M train to 36th Street
  • D or M train to 9th Avenue

No matter which way you go, you’ll have to run a couple of blocks before you reach the cemetery. If you want to start from where I described the route, get off at the 15th Street Prospect Park stop and run a few blocks in a southerly direction along Prospect Park West and over the Prospect Expressway. Study a map before you go and bring fluids with you to stay hydrated because you won’t find water fountains here. The permanent residents have no need for them, anyway.

Green-Wood Monuments

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michael on August 31, 2009 at 1:12 PM

    hello seth!

    Reply

  2. I love the run i prefer to run it at night its calm and relaxing to run.

    Reply

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