The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 4th, 2013

whispered warnings

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

All is fleeting, foot prints in the dust of eternity. Water will always win, and the accomplishments of an age of miracles will someday melt away into rust and sand. Like some ancient mariner, with his hands frozen to the wheel of a sinking ship and lost in tempest, so too does your humble narrator resist this and other truths of the world.

Welcome and nepenthe are found only amongst the tomb legions, so off to the polyandrion scuttle I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly early monument, by Calvary standards, is the 1858 obelisk and accompanying freestanding sculpture of the Connell monument.

It dominates in a prominent section of the great cemetery, occupying a position of prestige and the monument is evidentiary of a family possessed of certain material wealth and standing in the pre civil war era of 19th century New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was the age when Tammany was born, and the teeming masses of Europe were arriving in daily tides to lower Manhattan. The City was bursting at its seams, and the inequality of wealthy and poor was never as wide as it was then. This is a New York that let pigs loose in the street to eat up the garbage, in which plumbing seldom extended beyond the ground floor, and in which children slept five to a bed just to stay warm. It was the time of the B’hoy and the mob.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Connell family has been difficult to track down, despite their obvious wealth and influence. Evidence of a Thomas M Connell, a “Commissioner of Deeds” during the early stages of the Tammany era who was forced from office might be one of the fellows who is buried here, but the obscured lens of the historical record makes this speculation at best.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Glaring and obvious to most, but always startling to me, is the manner in which important or at least famous members of the City’s upper crust just drift away. At the time of the Connell family’s residency in NY society, they were likely familiar and oft spoken of members of the community, either famous or infamous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the world suffered by most in the 19th century, anybody who could afford to erect a thirty foot marble obelisk and surround it with free standing sculptures in Calvary Cemetery was clearly well off. Consider also, the societal standing and respect needed for Church officials to allow such a grandiose monument to be erected here.

Calvary is considered to be part of the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral by the Archdiocese, a holy of holies, and not a place to allow some “new money” bourgeois merchant to show off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All else I can tell you of the woman who inspired this extravagant monument is of a singular nature.

Her name was Mary Frances Connell, who died on a Saturday- July 17- in 1858, and she was nineteen years old.

Over at, a short obituary for Ms. Connell. Click here.


Remember that event in the fall which got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy?

The “Up the Creek” Magic Lantern Show presented by the Obscura Society NYC is back on at Observatory.

Click here or the image below for more information and tickets.


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