April 30th, 2009 -
Machpelah Cemetery, in Glendale, Queens, is the final resting place of magician Harry Houdini. In 1926, Houdini - the son of a Hungarian rabbi - died unexpectedly and was buried in this Jewish cemetery. His grave draws visitors from around the world, but otherwise Machpelah has fallen on hard times. "The cemetery always seemed utterly deserted and forgotten," writes the NY Times. Many gravesites remain untended and weed covered. Names and dates have washed away on some tombstones, leaving blank slates. And looming over Houdini's well-kept memorial is a 1928 cemetery office, abandoned and filled with discarded burial records. This once beautiful building is now home to a large family of pigeons.
According to the American Jewish Yearbook of 1899-1900, the Machpelah Cemetery Association was founded in 1860 and included "83 component [burial] societies." This undoubtedly played some role in the cemetery's demise. The damaging collapse of Jewish burial societies was recently exposed by the Village Voice: "The first societies were founded by Jewish immigrants well over a century ago... so that members could pool their money to buy grave sites and pay for funerals... burial societies have, over the past century, faded from the public consciousness - many of them eventually losing all of their members and existing only on paper." The result is "century-old burial societies... taken over by black-market speculators" who "even sell active graves out from under their owners."
April 23, 2009 -
The Williamsburgh Savings Bank is a Brooklyn icon. Also known as One Hanson Place and "The Clocktower," this landmark building was completed in 1929 and remains Brooklyn's tallest structure. Much has been written about the bank's history, including an article at Forgotten NY and a photoessay at Satan's Laundromat. However, there are many hidden spaces remaining inside this massive building, from its basement vaults to the surprisingly small clockworks at the top of the building. Though it once housed dozens of dentists and doctors' offices, few have seen the interior of the bank since it was closed in 2005. Over the last four years, the building has been renovated into a luxury residential complex. Work is still not finished and many residential spaces remain empty, including Penthouse A, with its two private observation decks. Soon, though, the building will be completely filled and permanently closed to the public.
Click here to see part two of this photo essay, including a look inside the Clock Tower Dome.