4. Green-Wood Cemetery Catacombs
The catacombs of the Green-Wood Cemetery are opened only a few times a year to the public, for guided tours of the mysterious underground and for concerts. Access is gained by using an old-fashioned dungeon-like key, which unlocks the iron gates out front. The staff of Green-Wood cemetery calls the space as “30 Vaults,” a reference to the number of vaults inside.
Located underneath a hill stretching about 150 feet, the catacombs date to the early 1850s, built as a series of family vaults in an area that was once excavated for gravel. Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery’s historian calls them, a “sort of apartment house for above ground interment…a middle class option for people who wanted the luxury of above ground interment without the expense of constructing something on [their] own.”
The most famous person buried in the catacombs part of Green-Wood cemetery is Ward McAllister, the Gilded Age high society tastemaker who coined the term “The 400” to refer to the exclusive set in New York City that could fit in Mrs. Astor’s ballroom. He was not as wealthy or blue-blooded as those he advised, so burial in the Green-Wood catacombs was a fitting endeavor for someone of his stature. Richman says McAllister would have been “quite chagrined to know that the catacombs are now locked up and access is very limited.”