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Green-Wood’s new gateway? Cemetery buys greenhouse for visitors center

Green-Wood Cemetery has bought the McGovern Weir building at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street to turn it into a visitors center.
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Green-Wood Cemetery is ramping up its tourism push by buying a crumbling, but historic, greenhouse across the street with an eye towards turning it into a museum and visitors center.

Officials at the landmark boneyard are closing on a deal to purchase the Weir-McGovern Greenhouse, a dilapidated flower shop on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street.

The greenhouse, which is near the graveyard’s west entrance, could soon house artifacts belonging to famous people buried across the street.

Neighbors are cheering for the move, saying the 130-year-old flower shop has long been a blemish on the block.

“I’m tired of looking at a dump, so this is a win for both the neighborhood and the cemetery,” said Aaron Brashear of Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights.

It may also increase the number of visitors to the 478-acre open space, where famous poets, mobsters and artists — not to mention half a dozen of Theodore Roosevelt’s relatives — are buried.

Even with its history, the 173-year-old cemetery just south of Prospect Park hasn’t been a huge tourist draw since the horse-and-buggy days — though in recent years, the cemetery has reached out to a new audience with tours and site-specific dance pieces.

The family-owned Weir-McGovern Greenhouse was built in 1879 — about 40 years after the cemetery opened — and was known for its striking architecture and springtime chrysanthemums. But business slowed and owners could not generate enough cash to fix the structure. Complicated landmark architecture rules also made repairs more difficult.

The greenhouse building — which is worth nearly $3 million — has been closed for least three weeks, according to neighbors.

Owner Kevin McGovern did not respond to calls; a phone number listed for the business just rings.

Its closure is fine with Brashear, who says the structure’s proximity to the 25th Street subway station sets the tone for visitors to the neighborhood, making its repair even more important.

“It could be beautiful,” he said. “It’s a natural extension of the cemetery.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Linda D. from Bay Ridge says:
.....best news in a while for preservation and new use of beloved old icons .....a real gem and looking forward to a sparkling revival of the structure !
Nov. 28, 2011, 10:24 am
nancy from coney says:
as a plot owner in the cemetary im a little anoyed that greenwood is treated like a park where people go 2 climb trees lounge around and play music toss garbarge around like they are in a park lets remember people its a cemetary where dead people reside and lets respect the place its doesnt help that greenwood vp and pres treat it like its a park putting on shows and what not so its not just the public 2 blame its the vp and pres that turned it in2 that so all i ask is show respect im just glad im no where near the playground section of the cemetary i do favor fixing up the florist but not if its gonna turn the cemetary in2 more of a circus
Nov. 28, 2011, 9:11 pm
Scott from Manhattan says:
I've read that the trust is running out of money and they're begging to become a national monument/park. If the grass isn't cut mother nature will turn it back into a forest in twenty years and, if so, it will make a fine park. Fine with me.

However, renovating the McGovern greenhouse seems like a nice idea.

Last word: cremation.
Nov. 29, 2011, 9:28 am
Theodore from UWS says:
@Nancy: While it might be not appropriate for playing music and throwing trash around, Green-Wood and other cemeteries of similar vintage (i.e. Lakeview in Cleveland) were originally designed to be both a cemetery and a park. Victorians used to go walking and have picnics in them as green space was otherwise lacking. So in fact the current administration is actually trying to get the cemetery back to a place where it was used as a public space as it was originally intended. As someone who loves Green-wood and enjoys walking around and enjoying the scenery I applaud their efforts.
Nov. 29, 2011, 12:41 pm
nancy from coney says:
i know all about green woods history in the 1800s they had no place 2 go untill they built prospect park now you all have the park so go there why hang out in a boneyard nice 2 tour but not 2 hang out thats why theres a park a few blocks away theres a place 2 go for shows and all that a cemetary not the place they treated the place like a circus when theydid the civil war show pony rides and all people camping 10ft from peoples plots and horse —— all over the place how disrespectful i was raised you go 2 a cemetary 2 pay respects 2 the dead not 2 party and hang out
Nov. 29, 2011, 6:06 pm
Selena Tractor from Brooklyn says:
Its a shame that the florist has been sold. It has been in the McGovern family for years. It really is a shame to see your name on something that is a waste now. I think the florist should have been passed over to a different family member who can actually live up to the florist's reputation.
Dec. 10, 2011, 9:39 am
Stephanie from Kensington says:
@Nancy: I understand your viewpoint, but just think about your grave in a few decades when no one visits you anylonger. Whenever I visit Green-Wood I think about all the people buried who never get visitors anymore. It makes me realize that I would love to be buried in a place like Green-Wood, because then I would always have visitors. Sure, they wouldn't be there specifically for me, but it would be great knowing that I was a part of something that people DID want to visit. Therefore, by extension, I would have thousands of visitors a year. Regular cemeteries (built more recently) are so depressing because no one goes there except for burials.
June 3, 2012, 8:23 am
Sylvia from Midwood says:
I agree with Nancy. A cemetery should not be used as an amusement park. Personally, I object to charging fees for tours. A cemetery should be free for all to visit and not exploit the dead for profit.
June 4, 2014, 9:09 pm

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