If you visit a big, old cemetery like Woodlawn in the Bronx, ignore the fancy gravestones for a moment and look down, into the grass. You might find big stone letters on squares, scattered as if giants playing Scrabble fought and up-ended the game board. These are cemetery lot markers or occasionally the initials of the families in nearby plots. Like gravestones, they break, shift, wear away, and sink, but offer an intriguing variety of letterforms. They are a typographic grid dropped over the landscape, a permanent Foursquare address. Meet me at the corner of H and K; no rush, I'll be here a while.
Today I went looking for the grave of designer E. McKnight Kauffer in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Sadly, his grave is not marked, but there was plenty more to see. Woodlawn is huge – over 400 acres - and stuffed with 19th to 21st-century memorials of all shapes. In places the obelisks are as thick and tall as the trees. Since it was cold and late I did not wander far, but would say that Woodlawn rivals Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn for the number of large memorials and famous names buried there. For the most part, the memorial lettering is familiar, tasteful design of the upper class, but some stood out, such as the script on the Foster family structure.
|E. McKnight Kauffer's grave site is the gap in the row of modest stones in the foreground.|
|The Untermyer memorial has an overgrown hill to itself and is extraordinary. The sculptures are by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. More on the Untermyer family here.|
|Wait, I'm not ready to go!|
|carpe diem, ya'll|
|This unusual stone displays urns in a glass-doored niche.|