A grave matter: High-schoolers restore Green-Wood monument

A grave matter: High-schoolers restore Green-Wood monument
Photo by Jason Speakman

It was a case of young meets seriously old.

High-schoolers helped restore a monument to Green-Wood Cemetery’s oldest inhabitant on Aug. 12, sprucing up the headstone of Sarah W. Kairns, who was interred at the historic burial ground in 1854 after she died at the age of 117.

The teenaged preservation enthusiasts also made a carbon rubbing of the monument to ensure that future generations can read the long-gone Brooklynite’s epigraph, said one of the young volunteers.

“It’s important to preserve the story behind the stone,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Nicholas Cruz, a Green-Wood intern and rising senior at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design who added that his favorite cemetery resident is Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.

The Williamsburg school focuses on architectural drafting, but also teaches historic preservation — which particularly appealed to Cruz, who said chaining himself to a drafting table for the summer would have been a total drag.

“I like working with my hands, and being outside is nice to get fresh air,” said Cruz, who scrubbed the shrine alongside another intern from his school and some French exchange students. “I’m not really an office person who likes to sit on computers, so this is perfect for me.”

Green-Wood has invited volunteers studying preservation to spiff up its grounds for the past 14 years.

Previous projects have included cleaning and waxing both the bronze bear that sits atop the memorial to American artist William Holbrook Beard, and the sculpture of Roman war goddess Minerva that stands atop Battle Hill, according to the burial ground.

Green-Wood employees said it was inspiring watching kids keep the graveyard’s history alive.

“It really is encouraging to see these young volunteers dedicated to preservation and it is fitting that, today, some of our youngest helpers are paying tribute to the oldest soul buried here,” said Green-Wood president Richard Moylan.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Keeping memory alive: Volunteers gathered in Green-Wood Cemetery on Aug. 12 to help preserve the gravestone of Sarah Kairns, the oldest person to have been buried — at age 117 — in the graveyard.
Photo by Jason Speakman