30 April 2012

The Fool With the Huge Obelisk

Think someone's overcompensating here?

Green-wood Cemetery has a lot of grandiose monuments erected by a lot of self-important people. But this one may take the cake. This obelisk marking the final resting place of Stephen M. Griswold may be the tallest in the cemetery. It's certainly the tallest I found during a recent tour of the western end of the famous burial ground.

So who was this grandee? Well, Griswold was famous in a way. But probably not in a way he would have liked.

A few weeks back I took a tour of the landmark Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, the one where Henry Ward Beecher was pastor. There I learned that a number of the parishioners were among the pilgrims that Mark Twain made fun of in his bestseller "Innocents Abroad." Apparently, Twain traveled to the Holy Land with the group in 1867—it was the first trans-Atlantic American cruise—and later used them as the models of the uncouth boobs featured in a series of articles, which were then collected into a book.

Griswold and his wife were in that group, and they were not portrayed in a favorable light. Maybe that indignity was what Griswold was trying to correct when his family commissioned this mile-high tombstone. Griswold was a jeweler otherwise, and the president of the Union Bank of Brooklyn, though he was a New York State Senator from 1886 to 1887. Guess his voters didn't read much Twain.


Ed said...

If I may suggest a minor correction, this person was probably a State Senator instead of a "Stage Senator", though maybe "Stage Senator" would fit better with the showy grave marker.

King Ning said...

There once was a bronze plaque affixed to the left of the entrance, on Broadway. It was a LPC plaque, by the way. It was stripped off the building about ten to twelve years ago. You can still see the "shadow" on the wall.