The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for January 19th, 2015

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Today marks the 206th anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s birth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent opportunity found a humble narrator tramping about in Machpela Cemetery over in the Glendale section, not far from the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. This cemetery was established in 1855, part of the build out of burying grounds that followed the Rural Cemeteries Act, and when it opened visitors would have told you that this non sectarian yet overwhelmingly Jewish polyandrion was found in Newtown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those of you knowledgable about Machpela have probably already guessed what drew me here – to a cemetery which sits across the street from the far larger Cypress Hills Cemetery – but I’ll be discussing “him” later in the week over at my Brownstoner column. Instead, since this is the first time that Machpela has been visited by a humble narrator, photos from a stroll around the place are presented today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seemed to be quite a lot of grounds keeping issues at Machpela, with ancient trees dropping large limbs, or as above – the entire tree went down. Pictured above was a tree whose trunk had been segmented by workmen. The thing appeared to have been struck by lightning, presuming that the blasted black char observed on several of the segments was caused by atmospheric electrical discharge. The fallen tree wiped out a whole section of monuments on its way down, which were tumbled about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fallen limbs were observed everywhere at Machpela, and there were a couple of places which seemed none too safe. Perhaps the unusual amount of rain and wind we’ve experienced in the last few months contributed to the carnage, but as in the shot above – many of these broken branches seem to have sat undisturbed and in the position that gravity and inertia placed them in long enough for decay to set in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To be fair, older cemeteries like this one suffer from conditions of severe financial hardship. All across the so called “Cemetery Belt” in Queens and Brooklyn are graveyards which were largely filled by the end of the First World War a century ago. If any surviving relatives persist in the area, the cemetery corporations find it difficult to collect any funds for the upkeep of a great great grandfather’s grave from them. New interments are few, and the operating funds available to modern management of cemeteries like Machpela are slim pickings.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 19, 2015 at 11:00 am

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