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

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.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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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