Situated between the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, this 255-acre burial ground was incorporated in 1849 beyond city boundaries. Originally built as a Picturesque landscape with curvilinear paths traversing gently sloping hills, the cemetery is one of only two known public landscapes designed by landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing. Constructed soon after incorporation the prominent Gothic Revival chapel was designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Architect Calvert Vaux later improved the chapel and added an adjacent stable. In 1875 landscape gardener Oliver Bullard provided planting plans for the site’s main entrance, while John Cuyler, former superintendent of Prospect Park, updated the cemetery’s drainage and road infrastructure in the 1880s. Named Greenwood’s landscape gardener circa 1887, New York City parks superintendent Samuel Parsons, Jr., laid out Prospect Hill in accordance with the “landscape-lawn plan,” emphasizing open greenswards and uniform grave alignments. After financial troubles in the 1870s, the long tenure of Charles Pfeiffer as cemetery superintendent between 1885 and 1925 created stability and continuity of design into the twentieth century.
Containing the highest natural point in Brooklyn, the cemetery’s undulating terrain offers scenic vistas of the Manhattan skyline and Jamaica Bay. Distinct plots, including the Seaman’s Grounds, which contains the remains of more than 1,200 sailors, and Celestial Hill, one of the first burial grounds for Chinese immigrants in New York, are dedicated to religious, ethnic, and professional groups. Atypical of contemporary cemeteries, the African American burial grounds were placed at the center rather than at the periphery. Laid out by Downing, the initial southern section features stylized headstones and monuments representative of various nineteenth-century artistic movements, such as tumulus burial enclosures and Gothic Revival mausolea. Hundreds of trees cover the grounds, including European beech, willow oak, Austrian pines, American holly, and deodar cedars. The Evergreens Cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.