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Woodlawn Cemetery Designated National Historic Landmark
A sphinx graces the entrance to the Egyptian architecture of the Woolworth mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. AP Photo/Kathy Willens.

BRONX, NY.- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that The Woodlawn Cemetery has been designated a National Historic Landmark—the highest recognition accorded to the nation’s most historically significant properties. Woodlawn, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary beginning next year, is one of the nation’s finest examples of a 19th-century garden cemetery. It is home to the largest and most distinguished collection of historic mausoleums in the nation, and is a still active cemetery. The designation recognizes its outstanding landscape design and collection of art and architecture. The designation also recognizes Woodlawn’s significant role in memorializing and celebrating prominent Americans, who shaped American history and culture. Since Woodlawn’s founding in 1863, 310,000 people—from Gilded Age magnates to pioneers for women’s rights to Harlem Renaissance writers and musicians, as well as artists, athletes, and ordinary citizens— have been interred on the cemetery’s 400 acres.

“Woodlawn’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the legacy of those who came before us and we are honored to be designated as a National Historic Landmark,” said John P. Toale, President of The Woodlawn Cemetery. We are committed to the stewardship of our country’s history and the aesthetic and natural treasures on our grounds, and to connecting our country’s past to the present and future. We welcome everyone to Woodlawn to see the lasting record of American lives and achievements from the Civil War-era to the present.”

The Woodlawn Cemetery is the final resting place of many Americans who have made a significant contribution to our national culture. They include: author Herman Melville, mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, composer Duke Ellington, musician Miles Davis, financier Jay Gould, entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, composer Irving Berlin, publisher Joseph Pulitzer, salsa singer Celia Cruz, artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and political cartoonist Thomas Nast, among many others.

Woodlawn embodies a uniquely American synthesis of formal architecture and naturalistic landscape. The park-like cemetery comprises pastoral and picturesque features. Its vistas and curvilinear roads create a harmonious landscape for more than 1300 private mausolea and formal monuments—many designed by the most prominent architects of the late 19th and early 20th century. These include: Carrère and Hastings, McKim, Mead, & White, Sir Edwin Lutyens, John Russell Pope, and James Gamble Rogers. The monuments are also notable for the art which graces them including stained glass, mosaics, and other works by John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Sculptures by Robert Aitken, Alexander Archipenko, Sally James Farnham and Attilio Piccirilli adorn the grounds, which over the course of Woodlawn’s history have been landscaped by many notable designers. Notable landscape designers contributed to individual memorials and memorial gardens, including the Olmsted Brothers, Beatrix Farrand Jones, and Ellen Biddle Shipman. Woodlawn’s grounds also feature an extraordinary collection of plants, including six of the “Great Trees of New York” and hundreds of century-old shade and blossoming trees.

The Woodlawn Cemetery hosts a series of architectural and horticultural tours, bird walks, talks about famous figures buried at Woodlawn, and other programs on a regular basis throughout the year. A public celebration to commemorate the National Historic Landmark designation will be held on October 16, 2011. In 2012, Woodlawn will launch the celebration of its 150th Anniversary with a series of special events and programs.

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