Fifteen years ago, at the end of a Green-Wood tour that I was leading, a gentleman approached me, pulled out a photograph of a drawing, and asked me if there was a monument at Green-Wood that looked like that. I immediately recognized it as the Pierrepont Family Memorial. It turned out that the man with the photograph was Norman Brosterman, a collector and dealer who had purchased a cache of the Upjohn architectural firm’s drawings that had been found in a New Jersey attic. Norman generously allowed me to photograph the plans and to reproduce one of them in my book, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery: New York’s Buried Treasure. If you have a copy, take a look at page 9–that is one of the drawings at top right. I must admit, you really can’t see it very well there–my photograph of it was not very good, and we really didn’t do it justice there. If you don’t have a copy of the book, order it here right now.
The Pierrepont Family Memorial, which likely dates from the 1840s (Henry Pierrepont purchased Green-Wood lots one through 8 in 1842), is an important Green-Wood piece. It was designed by Richard Upjohn, one of America’s first architects, the first president of the American Institute of Architects, and the man who designed Trinity Church (1846) which still stands on Broadway at the head of Wall Street in Manhattan. Upjohn was Green-Wood’s architect in its early years–he designed the Receiving Tomb, the Main Gate Arches, and several shelters that are long gone.
And, the fact that this monument is for the Pierrepont family is also significant. Henry Evelyn Pierrepont (1808-1888) is the father of Green-Wood Cemetery.
He toured cemeteries in Europe, and America’s first rural cemetery (Mount Auburn, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1832), when Green-Wood was just a dream of his. Soon after the City of Brooklyn was incorporated in 1834, Pierrepont was appointed to its roads commission. He made sure that no roads were laid out through the land that he hoped would soon become Green-Wood Cemetery. And it was Pierrepont who, on horseback, rode the Gowanus Heights with David Bates Douglass (1790-1848), the engineer who would become Green-Wood’s designer, to pick the best location for a rural cemetery.
The Pierrepont Monument stands atop a man-made hillock, with a view in all directions. It is one of the few man-made hills at Green-Wood–and it was built up to honor Henry Pierrepont. His father, Hezekiah (1768-1838), who developed Brooklyn Heights as a New York City suburb, and his mother Anna (1782-1838), heir to huge tracts of land in the Adirondacks, are also interred there.
Upjohn’s construction material of choice was brownstone. So, it is no surprise that the Pierrepont Monument is made of that material. That, however, created some problems for the survival of this monument. Brownstone is a soft, stratified material which tends to deteriorate over time. Joints open up, pieces break off, stone deteriorates.
This monument has been a part of our “Saved In Time” program–“a program to preserve the historic monuments of Green-Wood Cemetery”– since that program was launched several years ago. Though a good number of the “Saved In Time” monuments have been restored, the Pierrepont Monument remained untouched until recently. But, about a year ago, Ann Gaffney, one of our devoted trustees, made arrangements for two Pierrepont descendants to tour Green-Wood. Afterwards, our president, Rich Moylan, was able to pursuade them to go 50/50 with the cemetery on contributing funds for the restoration of the monument and lot.
Kate Ottavino, a leading expert in conservation and preservation, began work on the Pierrepont Monument recently. As she did so, we realized that it would be good to have copies of the original drawings on hand. So, I contacted Norman Brosterman, who told me that he had sold the Upjohn drawings to the Library of Congress in 1996. I went online and found those drawings in its catalogue. However, the 323 drawings from the Upjohn firm were listed as unprocessed. I thought that was going to be a problem. But I left a message in the “Ask the Librarian” folder and, just three days later, the Library of Congress e-mailed the drawings to me. Talk about your government at work for you.
So, here they are, the Upjohn drawings, in all their glory!
And here’s some of the work that was being done on the monument last week, and that contiues: gentle washing (to remove dirt and biological growth) and regrading (to expose the stone curb around the monument and to insure drainage away from the monument).