Factual Information About Forest Park Cemetery

Forest Park Cemetery was listed by Life magazine as one of the Top Ten most haunted places in the United States.

     Forest Park Cemetery is located in the town of Brunswick, New York. It has long been a place of desolation and abandonment although current attempts are being made to raise money to restore this historical site. Much of the documentation has been lost for this cemetery including the architectural plans for the only remaining, standing structure, the receiving tomb.
     Forest Park Cemetery was first incorporated by a group of wealthy Troy citizens in 1897. The area chosen occupied 200 acres of gently rolling hills, several natural streams and a small pre-existing graveyard. This acreage spanned all the way from Brunswick Road to its current location on Pinewood Avenue (this location has led to the misnomer of calling it Pinewood Cemetery). The first thing the incorporation did was to install drainage pipes to the spring and wet areas, some of which are broken or plugged today. The original goal of these citizens was to create a cemetery and park the likes of which would rival Troy's historic Oakwood. A beautiful landscape has been done of the proposed layout and can be found in the Brunswick Historical Society in Eagle Mills. Unfortunately these aspirations were not to be fulfilled. The incorporation spent large amounts of money on the drainage systems, photographs, a few of the formal gardens, the beautiful receiving tomb which today lies in ruin, and the architect who planed the site. The original layout for the landscaping was designed by Garnet Baltimore, the first black graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (R.P.I.).
     In 1914 the original incorporation went bankrupt. However, it was re-incorporated by investors from New York City and Chicago under the name Forest Hills in 1918. This incorporation soon also went bankrupt in the 1930's. Despite the re-incorporation, little of the original plan was ever carried out, the receiving tomb, designed by a still existing (at least it was 5 years ago) company called Temple Brother located in Vermont, was built and some graves were sold but none of the fountains or pools were ever built. The cemetery now only occupies 22 acres, although one can scarcely see the boundaries through the weeds. The central focus point of the cemetery was to be the receiving tomb which was constructed and still stands, although much of it has been destroyed. The glass dome is gone and the roof removed, as well as the marble wall coverings. Graffiti covers the walls and although some attempts have been made to clean it up a bit, it was not done by professionals. As a result, much of this historic monument has been ravaged.
     Despite its current condition however, the tomb still has a commanding presence. The design is an architectural cross between the designs of Romanesque, Classicist, and Sullivanism, the structure has an emphasis on mass and proportion not specific details. As is typical of the Romanesque style, there is a focus on the rough, monochromatic masonry that stresses the edges with quoins of smooth masonry. Also typical of this architecture are the massive arches of the entry way and "fake" windows which draw your attention upward. The classicist influence can be seen in the bilateral symmetry and the triangular pediment on the porte cochere and also within the glass dome although it no longer exists. The sparse detailing found on the masonry frieze is typical of Sullivan in the organic nature of its leaf and flower pattern. The styles are consistent with the time period of 1897, a time when Romanesque was loosing the battle of fashion against classicist influence.
     The design of this tomb was meant to portray a sense of permanence, order, and eternal control. It was hoped that this would assure people that it would last forever. Sadly, this faith was unfounded. The grounds are overgrown, vandalized, and forgotten. A vivid reminder of how societies views toward death have changed. Instead of revering death we now consider it an inconvenience, sticking burial places far from the people. No longer are cemeteries designed to be beautiful places to go and honor those who came before, but around the lawn mover and the weed-whacker. Many places do not even allow the planting of flowers but instead leave places for plastic stems and fiber petals to sit and soil with time.
     Most local residents don't know many details about the cemetery, or prefer to remain silent when asked about them, but there may be some truth to the rumors if Life magazine felt strongly enough to list old Forest Park as one of the Top Ten most haunted places in the United States. No actual ghost sightings have occured there (or have they?), although stories of bleeding statues and crying babies are well known.
     An interesting story sighted in the Troy Record (Oct.27,1996, pp.E1,4) tells of a couple who "parked" :) in the cemetery in the 1940's or 50's. The man got out of the car to investigate a strange noise, and a little while later the woman heard scraping on the roof of the car. Police arrived at the scene and told the girl to get out of the car and run, and not to look back. Of course she did, only to see that the scraping sound was coming from her companion's feet scraping against the roof of the car. He had been dangling from a tree above.
     Another story (although it's one that has been told in many towns), is that of the vanishing hitchhiker. According to the same Troy Record article, a Troy taxi cab driver told this story to Avril Park historian Judy Rowe. It is the tale of a young girl dressed in party clothes whom he picked up at Emma Willard School one night. She needed a ride home and directed the cabbie up Pinewoods Avenue, but upon reaching Forest Park Cemetery, the young girl vanished.

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