3. Green-Wood Cemetery Catacombs

Light peaks through holes in the ceiling of the Green-Wood Cemetery catacombs between rows of doors leading for family burial rooms.

The catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetery are opened to the public for guided after-dark tours 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 “30 Vaults,” a reference to the number of vaults inside. Located underneath a hill, the catacombs date to the early 1850s. Unlike a mausoleum which usually holds only one family, the catacombs were built to hold multiple families in one place. 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 there is Ward McAllister, the Gilded Age high society tastemaker who coined the term “The 400.” “The 400” is a reference to the elite of New York society, dubbed such because 400 is the number of people that could fit in Mrs. Astor’s ballroom. McAllister was not as wealthy or blue-blooded as those he advised in. life, so burial in the Green-Wood catacombs was a fitting end 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.”