The Newtown Pentacle

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From the very edge of the Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Cemetery of the Evergreens is found near the border of East New York and Bushwick, is some 225 acres in size, and is home to around a half million corpses. For a short time, during the 1920’s, it was the busiest burying ground in the entire city. Unfortunately, during my visit, the fact that Anthony Comstock is buried here was unknown to me, for I am possessed of a strong desire to first spread out a few issues of Hustler and thereupon urinate upon his grave. If that sounds shocking, you don’t know who that “assassin of joy” called Comstock was. If I’d known he was here, I’d have brought him some porn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Evergreens was my second destination on a recent trip to the south eastern interval of the Pentacle, after having visited Machpela Cemetery. When entering the place, a humble narrator was in a state of willful ignorance. My friend Kevin Walsh over at Forgotten-NY has written extensively (and offered a walking tour) about the non sectarian Cemetery of the Evergreens, btw., but this was my first visit. Personally, I was blown away by the view, as the altitude of the hill that the cemetery is built into offers panoramic views of the entire geologic “soup bowl” that NYC is nestled into. The only competition for these tapophile views from Bushwick, in my experience, are those encountered at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery found a few miles to the north over in Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It must be mentioned, as always, that the Manhattan people look to Brooklyn and Queens to dispose of things they don’t want – which includes their dead. Back in 1847, the Rural Cemeteries Act was passed as a sanitary law. The RCA of 1847, a reaction to a recent Cholera outbreak in Manhattan’s Bloody Sixth Ward, decreed that no new burials were to take place on Manhattan Island and that the various sects and houses of worship housed thereupon must acquire properties in “the country.” Back then, “the country” meant the vastness of greater Newtown or the infinity of the City of Brooklyn (independent municipalities, I would mention, who permanently lost a significant acreage of otherwise profitable land to these cemeteries).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observed were a wealth of monuments representing several recent eras in the field of graphic design. Particularly well represented were early 20th century deco and nouveau motifs, and typography such as that used on the carvings above was of high quality and tasteful execution. Having spent as much time studying First Calvary as I have, which hosts monuments that are the epitome of an interval starting during the Civil War of the 1860’s right through 1900 or so (thoroughly Irish and German Catholic in type and marker styling), this sort of “moderne” approach to funereal typography caught my eye. Several examples of this sort of marker were noticed, with the one above recorded simply because the light was good.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For as long as this – your Newtown Pentacle – has been focusing on the various cemeteries which comprise the so called “Cemetery Belt” there have been references offered for “disturbing subsidences.” Presumption is made that you have a life and don’t spend your time hunting around cemeteries, unlike me, and that a little bit of explanation as to what you’re looking at should be attempted for the non ghoul.

This is a washout, not a fresh interment. If it was a new burial, there would be a temporary marker of some kind and the soil would form a slight mound – there would also be tire marks from earth moving equipment and footprints. Additionally, notice the edges of the bald soil! which bear the shape of flowing water. No, what you’re seeing here is a disturbing subsidence, wherein either the entire casket has been shifted or damaged by hydrologic action – or the lid of the casket has simply collapsed – allowing soil to infiltrate, creating a void which caused column of loam to drop down.

As mentioned – a “disturbing subsidence.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

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