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Clean Up Day Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery

Beautification and Clean Up Day
Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery
Sponsored by
The Friends of Greenwood Cemetery
930 Adams Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19124


The Friends of Greenwood Cemetery is sponsoring the Clean-up of historic Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery on Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Refreshments will be provided.  The Friends of Greenwood is a 501(c)3 charitable organization entirely staffed by volunteers dedicated to the preservation of the cemetery’s grounds, records and the historical buildings.  Whether you have family buried in the cemetery, love history, or are a resident of the community, we need your help.  Even if you can only help for an hour that’s great, every little bit helps. Bring gloves, wheel barrows, and rakes and wear sturdy shoes. We will be picking up branches from the storms, raking leaves, picking up trash, trimming, etc.  Call FOG at 215-533-2967 for more information. If you can’t make it then we are also looking for volunteers for May 4.

If you can’t make it to this one, we will be planning more, so please watch for future announcements.

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Controversy Surrounds Cemetery Work

The Philadelphia Historical Commission is investigating allegations that work being done at the Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery is being done without proper permits.  The Historical Properties committee at the Historical Society of Frankford raised the issue in response to neighbors concerns.  The cemetery appearance has improved greatly over the last two years, However the issue is the historical significance of the property and its preservation.

Response from the Historical Commission:

I visited the site myself on Friday, June 15 and photographed the area in
question. One of my staff members tried to contact the property owner for
two weeks, but no one returned his calls or answered his emails. We
therefore requested that the Department of Licenses & Inspections issue a
violation to the property owner for failing to obtain the Historical
Commission’s approval for the work. The Department is also issuing a
violation for failing to obtain a building permit for clearing more than
5,000 square feet of land. After receiving the violations, the property
owner will have an opportunity to take the appropriate corrective actions
(ie seek the Historical Commission’s and Department’s approvals for work to
remedy the situation). If an appropriate action is not taken, then the
Department and Historical Commission will seek to enforce the violations
through the courts. Thank you for your vigilence.

Jonathan E. Farnham, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Philadelphia Historical Commission

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Protection or Destruction at Greenwood Cemetery

Joe Menkevich, as a member of the Historic Properties Committee at Historical Society of Frankford,  has been researching the situation at Greenwood Cemetery.  The following is his email to Jonathan Farnham, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Historical Commission:

Dear Dr. Farnham
A you are well aware, the Philadelphia Historical Commission has a file on the Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery Company, which (by my understanding of the facts) is now the responsibility of Cancer Treatment Centers of America via their shell company Greenwood Holdings LLC.
The Cemetery company is a land management company and are to manage & maintain the the overall cemetery property, the buildings & paths.
At any rate, all the graves in the cemetery which have been purchased & or contain human remains & headstones are owned IN FEE SIMPLE by individual families. They are no to be disturbed unless by order of the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court.
Additionally, when it comes to a property under the “protection” of  PHC, I am sure you are familiar with the “Due Process” which involves Public hearings & Public notices whenever any changes are to be made.
However, please see by the attached photographs that several sections of the cemetery, as designed by Architect Thomas S. Levy (specifically: O, P, S & T), have now been leveled & most of the “Historic” graves markers are now missing. This has occurred in the last 2 weeks.
Where were the Public hearings? Where is the Court Order? Where is the Protection? Where are the Grave Stones now? Who is accountable?
Please do investigate this situation to determine what if anything can be done.
I am of the opinion that criminal charges should be filed with the Philadelphia District Attorney.
Joseph J. Menkevich
P.S. just hosted a recent news story showing several grave stones (from several area cemeteries) that dumped in the mouth of Frankford Creek under the Betsy Ross Bridge. They were not from Greenwood.

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The Largest Sugar Maple

Very big sugar maple

“If you want to learn something, hang out with people smarter than you are”, so said a wise man.  We took a tree walk on Friday on a beautiful afternoon and learned a lot.  The setting was the revived Knights of Pythias – Greenwood Cemetery at Adams Avenue and Ramona Street.

Leading the group was Dr. David Hewitt from the Academy of Natural Sciences, a very amiable fellow who never made me feel ignorant.  Along with Dr. Hewitt was Edward (Ned) Barnard who is famous in his own right as the author of “New York City Trees” as well as a very nice series of children’s books.

I have a slide show ready at this link of a sampling of the trees we found along our journey.  (If you click on Show Info button at the top right it will display the captions.)

The most spectacular to me was the sugar maple that hugs the side of the cemetery along Ramona Avenue.  It stands 72 feet high and is 15 feet around the base.  That makes the diameter about 56 inches.  Ned took careful measurements and pictures of course.  You don’t see many that large, so I am told.

We also saw American Sycamore, White Cedar, Black Cherry, Silver Maple, Pin Oak, Willow, Horse Chestnut and Norway Maple.  I may have forgotten some but I noted them on the captions of the pictures.  What we did not find was evidence any plantings dating back to the 18th century.  The trees appear to date to about when the cemetery was planned and laid out.

I also took some pictures of the area of the cemetery not yet restored which you can see here.  Doctor Hewitt mentioned that the rear of the cemetery is actually an early successional forest.  The trouble is the forest has taken over the grave areas and so interspersed with the trees are burials and tomb stones.  They are clearly working on restoring it and it should actually be very nice when that is done.

It was interesting that even among all that overgrowth, we found a new stone recently put down in memory of a Civil War soldier.

It was a great way to spend the afternoon and painlessly educational.


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Tree Walk Through Greenwood Cemetery

A lot of the rural folks who happen to wander into Frankford notice that we sure do have a lot of trees for a city.  Yes we are arborally blessed and this Friday, if you are available at about 2PM, you might want to take a walk with an expert on trees to see what we really have here.

Dr David Hewitt from the Academy of Natural Sciences will be leading the 5th in a Series of Tree Walks on Friday November 4 at 2:00 PM through Greenwood Cemetery, possibly also Oakland Cemetery, if time allows.  The plan is to meet at 930 Adams Ave Philadelphia, PA 19124 (the house on Adams near Ramona).

If you haven’t been to Greenwood since it has been restored, come on out.  It is much different than what you may remember from a few years ago. Sounds like great exercise on a fine Fall afternoon.