Society Adventures: Cocktails in the Catacombs - Atlas Obscura
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Society Adventures: Cocktails in the Catacombs

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The elaborate towering gate to Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery
(all photographs by Steven Acres, visit http://stevenacr.es to view more of his work)

Earlier this month, in celebration of Green-Wood Cemetery’s 175th anniversary and the arrival of autumn, the Obscura Society held an evening of cocktails and live music deep within the catacombs of the Brooklyn cemetery’s beautiful and historic grounds.  

Green-Wood was established in 1838 as New York’s first garden cemetery, encouraging the public to explore and enjoy their green, open grounds while offering a peaceful setting for loved ones to honor and mourn for those who have passed. Today the grand architecture and detailed sculptures still enthrall, and a walk through the winding, tree-lined paths presents a unique sense of our city’s history. 

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Green-Wood’s chapel by the light of the moon

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Winding pathways brought us through the cemetery’s beautiful monuments towards the catacombs at the center of the grounds

The elaborate gates guarding Green-Wood’s main entrance were opened late in the evening for our guests, who followed a luminary-lit path leading into the heart of the cemetery and the usually off-limits catacombs. The catacombs date back to the 19th century when a demand for above-ground burial was preferred, partly in reaction to a widespread fear of being buried alive. A long, narrow tunnel built into a hillside, the catacombs’ various burial chambers branch off on both sides, all of which were aglow with candlelight offering moody respites for the evening’s attendees. Ward McAllister, esteemed longtime buried resident of the Green-Wood catacombs, was elected guest of honor for the night’s festivities. McAllister was a self-created socialite in 19th century New York and was said to have loved nothing more than a good party; it only seemed fit to dedicate our night to his memory.

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A guest contemplating her surroundings

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Tamar Korn and a talented grouping of musicians set the mood

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A mysterious crowd absorbed in the night’s entertainment

Having the chance to experience historic Green-Wood Cemetery after-hours by the light of our candles and the stars in the sky made for a gorgeous and surreal evening. Our gala featured a cocktail bar created by Nathan Venard of Dutch Kills and Little Branch and a six-piece jazz band lead by the vocals of the lovely Tamar Korn. Music echoed through the burial chambers, drifting out into the cemetery grounds on the balmy night air. Our gathering lasted well into the night before the cemetery’s trolley arrived, escorting us back to the main gates to re-enter the busy New York City streets as if awaking from a dream. We dissipated into the night, proud to have thrown McAllister one more truly great party.

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Green-Wood’s trolleys escorting departing guests through the darkened cemetery grounds

Here are a few more photographs by Steven Acres from the night:

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 Obscura Society New York’s Cocktails in the Catacombs took place October 11 in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.


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