In honor of the Halloween season, a friend and I took a lantern walk through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery last night. Unfortunately, no apparition guided our walk, and no spirit appeared beside his monument.
Still, the evening was lovely, and the monuments were gorgeous, so beautiful, in fact, that I wished it was daylight so the pictures I took would do them better justice.
We learned about architectural differences, for instance, the Rhinelander family, a familiar name in New York history and society since the 17th century, has two mausoleums seated side by side. One built in 1890, and one built in 1905. Those 15 years saw a change from the Gothic style popular in the latter Victorian era to a more Classical style in the early 1900s.
There were monuments in granite, in marble, and in a wonderfully clean, white (though our guide said it was pale blue) and smooth stone-looking material that wasn’t really stone. It was poured and cast zinc! Cheaper than either marble or granite, doing away with the necessity of a stonecutter, the monuments were particularly appealing.
A monument to those who died in the Revolutionary War (erected in 1890) sat atop a high point where lookouts during the War could see the City (New York City) and the Hudson River, and watch for British incursions by land and sea. With the moon overhead, it was easy to imagine them sitting around a fire watching for the enemy.
There are so many important people buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery that they’d fill a book! George Jones, co-founder of the New York Times, Brooke and Jacob Astor, Andrew and Louise Carnegie, Edward “Major” Bowes, John D. and brother Lawrence Rockefeller, and so many soldiers, artists, the occasional politician, philanthropists and journalists it boggles the mind.
One of my favorite inhabitants, however, has to be Washington Irving (1783-1859), lawyer, diplomat, and internationally famous author of short stories, histories, essays, and biographies. (My photo was distant and very dark, but here’s one that’s perfect.) It’s ironic that a D student who hated school should grow to write classics that are required reading for students today. Of course, his short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is renowned as a seasonal favorite.
But Irving’s masterstroke of marketing occurred in 1809, when he posted a series of missing person notices in New York newspapers seeking one Diedrich Knickerbocker, a Dutch historian who’d gone missing from his New York City hotel.
For months afterward, people would write him with Knickerbocker sightings, that he’d been seen upstate, or claiming that he didn’t look well and should be taken in and cared for. New York City officials even considered offering a reward for his safe return.
So, when Irving published the satire “A History of New York” by Diedrich Knickerbocker in December of 1809, he’d already created a following clamoring for Mr. Knickerbocker and his book. Sheer genius.
Oh, and Ichabod Crane? Real fella. It seemed Irving had a habit of using the names of people he met or knew for characters in his works.
Mr. Crane was not amused.