My Dear Clark:On December 1st, 1959, almost ten-and-a-half years after penning the above letter, Washington Irving, an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century did - in fact - lay his bones beneath the soil at Tarrytown Cemetery following his death from a heart attack on November 28th, 1859 in his bedroom at Sunnyside, his Tarrytown home located just 3-1/2 miles from the cemetery. Following his death, the cemetery Trustees posthumously changed the name from Tarrytown Cemetery to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to honor the man who was the first American to earn his living solely by his pen.
I send you herewith a plan of a rural cemetery projected by some of the worthies of Tarrytown, on the woody hills adjacent to the Sleepy Hollow Church. I have no pecuniary interest in it, yet I hope it may succeed, as it will keep that beautiful and umbrageous neighborhood sacred from the anti-poetical and all-leveling axe. Besides, I trust that I shall one day lay my bones there. The projectors are plain matter-of-fact men, but are already, I believe, aware of the blunder which they have committed in naming it the “Tarrytown,” instead of the “Sleepy Hollow” Cemetery. The latter name would have been enough of itself to secure the patronage of all desirous of sleeping quietly in their graves.
I beg you to correct this oversight, should you, as I trust you will, notice this sepulchral enterprise.
I hope as the spring opens you will accompany me in one of my brief visits to Sunnyside, when we will make another trip to Sleepy Hollow, and (thunder and lightning permitting) have a colloquy among the tombs.
Yours, very truly,
New York, April 27, 1849
A 90-acre parcel of land consisting of both a beautiful valley and scenic knolls situated on the easterly bank of the Hudson River at Tarrytown, the cemetery is fourteen miles north of the boundary line of New York City and serves as the final resting place for many of New York's rich and famous including Elizabeth Arden, Andrew Carnegie, Leona Helmsley, William Rockefeller, and Walter Chrysler - founder of the Chrysler Corporation.
Having visited the Chrysler Building in New York City, an amazing work of Art Deco architecture, I was rather surprised to see such a rather ordinary and unadorned mausoleum for the Chrysler family. No replicas of 1929 Chrysler radiator caps or hood ornaments, no eagles, no metal cladding, no radiating terraced arches ... just a simple Greek structure. Definitely not what I was expecting!
Not all of the buildings and grave sites at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are as plain as the Chrysler Family Mausoleum, though, beginning with the main gates which are locked at 4:30 p.m. whether you're still wandering the grounds or not! Considering the size of this cemetery, I'd be willing to bet people have been locked in more than a time or two. I like to think of myself as adventurous but spending the night in a place that's sure to have it's share of spooks and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night is not high on my list of things to do!
This is the Main Office and Washington Irving Chapel whose stained glass windows depict scenes of Irving's life as well as scenes from his short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Of course, I didn't know that until later so didn't even think to ask the lady at the Reception Desk that I got a map from if we could see the Chapel or not. Duh ... I am so going back in the Fall!
The Pocantico River, which is a beautiful stream but really not much of a river, wanders through the middle of the cemetery.
When the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery expanded to the east side of the Pantico River, a passage over the river was required so the Headless Horseman Bridge was built. This isn't the actual site where Ichabod Crane lost his race with the Headless Horseman (that's further up near the Old Dutch Church and the original bridge was long ago replaced) but when you drive across the boards, they clatter like a horse's hoof beats and the area is so dense and creepy enough to make you think that the Headless Horseman just might appear!
We didn't encounter any horses with or without riders - headless or otherwise - but there was some wildlife out noshing on the lush grass that surrounded the graves. This fella was nice enough to stop and pose briefly for a picture!
I don't believe I've ever been in a cemetery that had so many mausoleums before or ones with such beautiful doors! These are just a few of the ones that we saw.
These are the doors of the Leff Family Mausoleom and even though I have no idea who they were, I really liked the stained glass portrait of Joel Leff that adorned the back of the wall. I'd be willing to bet he was an avid pipe smoker while he was still alive!
I suppose that to a lot of people, it seems bizarre that my girls like to go out to the cemetery to pose for pictures but I guess that Amanda has gotten rather used to it by now as evidenced by the number of pictures she asked me to take of her in various places and poses.
No, Amanda, I don't care how long you stand there; you are not getting a For Here, Half-Caf, Quad, Iced Grande, Soy, Starbucks Doubleshot on Ice + Energy! Kids! ...
This gentleman here is Mr. Owen Jones, a Welsh-born fella who made his fortune through a New York City department store and real estate dealings. His monument is a Gothic church in miniature and features a life-sized sculpture of himself standing beneath a vaulted canopy. His wife, Maria, and two sons also share the plot but there are no statues of them.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery's Civil War monument is dedicated to "Our Union Soldiers" and commemorates the local men who served in the War Between the States. A local sculptor who was legally blind at the time, Johnson M. Bundy, created the bronze Union soldier who stands guard over the graves of the fallen who gave their last full measure of devotion to keeping the Union as one.
Standing at the top of a former earthen redoubt that was constructed in 1779 by local militia for protection during the Revolutionary War is the Revolutionary War Memorial which reads "In Memory of the Officers and Soldiers of the Revolution who by their valor sustained the cause of liberty and independence on these historic fields". The men for whom this memorial stands are buried nearby in the Old Dutch Burying Ground.
Close by the American Revolution Memorial is the plot of the Delavan Family.
The plot consists of an ensemble of six marble figures which surround a central granite pillar upon which the figure of Hope stands.
Daniel Delavan was a captain of the local milia that erected the earth redoubt on which the American Revolution Memorial now stands and which this plot overlooks.
Captain Delavan was originally buried in a cemetery in Ossining, New York but was relocated to this final resting spot in Sleepy Hollow by a later generation of his family who commissioned the marble figures as a tribute to the Captain.
The marble figures were all quite impressive though some of them were definitely starting to look a little worse for wear. I suppose, though, when you're standing in the cold of Winter and the heat of Summer for as long as they have, you're going to look a little worn, too!
At the very front of the plot is a life-sized statue of Jesus that Jamie gave a big hug to as she thought her father might enjoy the picture. Matter of fact, she borrowed my cell phone while we were there so that she could tell him that she had found Jesus, though he appeared to be missing his fingers. Sigh ... why can't I have normal kids?
Speaking of not having normal kids, Amanda had to take a moment to reenact a scene from one of her favorite Doctor Who episodes "Blink". As the good Doctor told Sally, "Don't blink. Blink and you're dead. Don't turn your back. Don't look away. And don't blink. Good Luck." When we turned to walk away I made sure that the angels weren't following us ... just in case!
While we're on the subject of angels, I thought that this one was really very pretty though it would be nice if someone would come out and polish it up a bit. I bet when this stone was first commissioned, it was just gorgeous though the greenish-blue does add an interesting effect to it.
Now does this or does this not look like the perfect tree to be smack in the middle of a cemetery called Sleepy Hollow?!?
Another stone that I really liked as it shows what fantastic craftsmanship used to go into the making of gravestones. When you stop and think what sort of tools people had to work with back then it's even more impressive.
I thought these decorative iron rails were very impressive, too and it made me think that the people who were buried near them were well-loved by their families considering the care and expense they went through to mark their final resting places. It's just too bad that the current generation of their family doesn't seem to come around very often.
As far as final resting places go, I think out of all the ones that we saw (and we didn't see anywhere near as many as we could have), I liked this one the best. It looks like it would be a lovely place to lay your bones at the end of your life. It was witten in a 19th-century brochure for the cemetery that "Death is stripped of many of its pangs when it transplants to such surroundings." and I've got to say I agree with that as it was hard to find sorrow in this cemetery but more a celebration of the lives that its inhabitants once lived.
This small stone seems to sum it all up when it comes to death and cemeteries and this mortal life of ours.
As their literature likes to remind you, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, for all that it is a place of historical significance, is still a very active cemetery with individual and family plots available. We passed workers constructing a new mausoleum in the area of the Chrysler Mausoleum and no doubt it will be as much a work of art as many of the ones surrounding it; perhaps I shall have to go back and take a look at it along with all of the other spots I missed as we just didn't have time to cover the entire cemetery or see the graves of many of the people who made our country great in one form or another. Seems to me a trip in October might be the perfect time to revisit Sleepy Hollow ... though not after dark and certainly not alone!
If all of this has made you want to read Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow again or for the first time, please click on this link which will take you to a complete transcript of the short story. As a matter of fact, I believe it's time to become reacquainted with Mr. Ichabod Crane myself!
*All pictures can be seen larger by clicking on them.