Fans book burial plots in the Bronx to be near jazz greats
The guardians of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are reaching out to those who can think of nothing better than making their final resting place one shared by the likes of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Celia Cruz.
On its 150th birthday, the cemetery, a national landmark in the US, is making quite the fanfare of the concentration amid its lawns and quiet avenues of deceased American jazz greats, some of whom journeyed here from the clubs of nearby Harlem.
Woodlawn, at the very end of the subway tracks at New York City’s northern edge, already has a special appeal, its groves of grand trees and stately mausoleums a reflection of the elevated status of many already buried here. Pulitzer, Woolworth, Vanderbilt and Clark are among the notables with their names carved onto the plinths of granite piles designed by the likes of Edwin Lutyens and McKim, Meade and White.
The events in honour of the cemetery’s birthday are in part a cultural celebration. In June, it hosted a first-ever, open-air jazz concert featuring trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, which drew nearly 2,000 fans.
It is also, however, a marketing event, concedes David Ison, the cemetery’s executive director, who says that of the nearly 400 acres Woodlawn currently occupies – half the size of Central Park – about 30 are still up for grabs. And he has no doubt that some of those interested in buying space ahead of time, as it were, will be lovers of jazz who are anxious to spend eternity near to the legends they have loved in life.
"Duke" Edward Kennedy Ellington's grave He knows in part because nearly all the 70 burial plots which were advertised for sale earlier this year in “Jazz Corner” – right behind the shiny, granite gravestone of Miles Davis, etched with his trumpet and bearing the honorific “Sir” to mark the knighthood bestowed on him by the Knights of Malta – have already been taken.
“We’ve only got a few left,” he comments, adding that a “high percentage” of those who have invested will have done purely because of the proximity to the trumpeter.
They won’t only have Davis for company. Across the road is a linden tree with two crosses on each side and a small parade of stones set in the grass overlaying the departed of the Ellington family, including Duke Ellington, 1899-1975.
Also close by is the altogether more showy gravestone of saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. And just over the brow of a hill from there is a pavilion-like mausoleum where Cuban salsa star Celia Cruz was laid to rest in 2003.
Much more ambitious plans are afoot for the hill itself, at the moment almost bare but for a single, nearly brand-new mausoleum at the crest, its four facades ready to accept new arrivals, whether in full-size caskets – there are slots also for two side by side – or urns needing only tiny niches. Four more mausoleums will be built shortly in the same area and there will be plenty of space also for traditional graves in the ground.
The cemetery contains the remains of many famous musicians Plots and other burial options at the site start at around $6,000 (£3,500).
While Mr Ison can’t say that everyone who decides to make the hill their last place of repose will be doing it because of the connection with jazz, he expects that the proportion doing so will also be “very important”.
Barbara Selesky, the marketing director for the cemetery, says that June’s concert, which was put on by Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra, was particularly helpful.
“It gave people a whole education about jazz at Woodlawn,” she says, taking this reporter on a tour of Jazz Corner and the new hill development close by.
“We have a lot of land for development as you see, although a lot of people wouldn’t think so.”
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Zayn Malik gives first interview since quitting One Direction: 'I've never felt more in control of my life'
Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...