The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 10th, 2019

morbid shade

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A long overdue visit to Calvary Cemetery, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Consecrated by Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes in 1848, who personally conducted the first interment (of literally millions) here in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery, this was and is the primary burying ground of the Roman Catholic Church in NYC. That first funeral was for an Irish immigrant named Esther Ennis, who is said to have died of a broken heart at her flat on Manhattan’s Clinton Street. Pictured above and below are views of the original part of the RC Church’s sprawling funereal complex, the “Saint Calixtus” or “First Calvary” division, found in the Blissville section of Long Island City. There are three other sections of Calvary, which are found nearby in the neighboring community of Woodside to the east. That large dome poking up through the bare tree limbs in the shot above is the Almirall Chapel, built in 1908.

The dome is forty feet across, eighty eight feet tall, and is capped by a statue of Christ the Redeemer created by a sculptress named Merro Beatrice Wilson. Ms. Wilson’s gender is mentioned for a reason, as it’s a pretty extraordinary thing for the Roman Catholic Church of that era to have handed out such a prominent assignment to a female artist. Conversely, the New York Archdiocese of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a very different organization than it is now, politically speaking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the second half of the 19th century, it was not uncommon for Calvary Cemetery to handle anywhere between fifty and one hundred funerals a day. The chaplain of the cemetery, named Reverend Hennessy, lived in a house found on the northeastern side of the grounds along with his staff – who were apparently monks and young priests.

Hennessy is also buried at the cemetery he devoted himself to, incidentally. His monument is white marble, adorned with delicate carvings depicting his priestly vestments. The monument hasn’t weathered well, what with the acidic rain and industrial pollutants produced by nearby factories found along the notorious Newtown Creek. Generally, marble in Calvary looks like melting ice cream, whereas granite seems to be fairly invulnerable to the atmospherics.

Fashions come and go. Hemlines, sideburns, hairstyles etc. Same thing occurs with mortuary architecture. A fad or fashion which seems, evidentiary speaking, to have occurred between the 1870’s and about 1900 was to erect enormous obelisk markers for subterrene family tombs. There’s a plane of these obelisks, right in the center of the place. Hawks like to hang out on them, waiting for rabbits to pop up from underground hidey-holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly westward, towards Manhattan. You can just see Newtown Creek and the Pulaski Bridge peeking out from above the memorial stones. This particular section of the cemetery has been used as the set for dozens and dozens of television and movie funerals. Vito Corleone’s funeral happened to the east of this spot, nearby the Johnston Memorial, but this is where Spider Man’s Uncle Ben, Batman’s parents… i can’t even begin to list them all.

By the way – Is it just me, or has the Manhattan skyline been utterly screwed up forever by Hudson Yards and that monstrosity going up behind the Chrysler Building?

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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.


Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 10, 2019 at 11:00 am

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