The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 27th, 2013

fastened ajar

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are my “tripod” shots from the night time excursion to Greenwood Cemetery which Atlas Obscura invited your humble narrator along on. I’m actually rather fond of both the one above and the second to last shots presented in this post. The only sources of light were being radiated by distant street lights shining through a heavy fog from those Brooklyn streets surrounding the victorian era cemetery, and from the candles set out by the Obscura people. What you’re looking at is beyond the range of human vision, as it was so dark that I had to briefly use a flashlight to allow my camera a lit vantage upon which it could lock in its metering.


At noon, yesterday, Mr. STEPHEN WHITNEY, one of the oldest and wealthiest of our citizens, died at his residence in Bowling-green. Some of his intimate friends state that he was but 70 years of age, while others affirm that he had completed his 80th year. He entered business, in this City, at an early period of his life, and has always been considered strictly upright in his dealings, but at the same time close and sharp in effecting bargains. These characteristics laid the foundation for a fortune which has accumulated of late years, until it is estimated at the enormous amount of $8,000,000.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This photo was from within the tomb itself. While taking this shot, I felt the need to call Forgotten-NY’s Kevin Walsh and say “guess where I am?”. When I told him where, he wasn’t surprised at my answer, which was odd. As you can see, the Atlas Obscura crew had installed quite an abundance of candles.

from wikipedia

In 1827, he joined William Backhouse Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, in building a Merchants’ Exchange Building at the corner of Wall and William Streets. The New York Stock and Exchange Board moved their operations from the Tontine Coffee House to the new building, adopting it as their first permanent home. In the 1840s he was involved in the founding of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s an interesting dome which caps the Whitney mausoleum. For some reason, it struck me that there must be some sort of message or symbolism encoded in it which I cannot discern, which is common when you lose the cultural context which would be obvious to the dwellers of days gone by. The whole structure is laden with iconic symbolism, much of which is obtusely viewed by modern eyes.

also from wikipedia

Whitney was among the first multi-millionaires in the city. Many accounts refer to his fortune as second only to that of John Jacob Astor, who died in 1848 with an estate of $20 million. Whitney’s wealth was estimated at his death to be at least $8 million, although some thought it was $10 or even $15 million. Unlike the Astors, he was not given to public philanthropy, and the result is that the Whitney name is not remembered in the city the way that the Astor name is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another long exposure tripod shot, I’m actually quite taken with this one. One of my favorite things to do in settings such as this is to leave the shutter wide open for up to a minute, sometimes longer, in total darkness. The shot above was actually 30 seconds long, and the flares you see coming from the candles are actually beams of their light illuminating the fog as it rolls by. Again, this shot displays a dynamic range of both color and detail that were completely invisible to my naked eye. Yay for me, something works for a change.


Founded in 1838 as one of America’s first rural cemeteries, the Green-Wood Cemetery soon developed an international reputation for its magnificent beauty and became the fashionable place to be buried. By 1860, Green-Wood was attracting 500,000 visitors a year, rivaling Niagara Falls as the country’s greatest tourist attraction. Crowds flocked to Green-Wood to enjoy family outings, carriage rides and sculpture viewing in the finest of first generation American landscapes. Green-Wood’s popularity helped inspire the creation of public parks, including New York City’s Central and Prospect Parks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s what I saw when I went to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn on a chill and foggy November night. Have a good holiday, lords and ladies, and eat too much. Newtown Pentacle will be in single image mode until Monday, when further vainglorious efforts to “break out of my rut” will be displayed.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

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