In few American places are so many brilliant people found in such a small space. They may be silent. They are certainly dead. But inhabitants of New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery have left a living legacy.
Walking through the monumental Egyptian Revival gate feels like a passage from one world into another. Not only am I gripped by a solemn grandeur, but an almost palpable pharaonic sense of an afterlife. Regardless of my personal theology, many who are buried here live through long past deeds, writings, art, and discoveries.
As I passed by an obelisk in his memory, I realized that few days go by when I don’t consult a dictionary with Noah Webster’s (1758-1843) name on it. I was dressed all in cotton from socks to jeans and flannel shirt as I stood beside Eli Whitney’s (1765-1825) brownstone sarcophagus, reminding me that the rise of the now ubiquitous fabric was made possible by his invention of a cotton gin that removed sticky seeds from the fibers. At Charles Goodyear’s (1800-1860) grave, I realized that I rode here on tires that paid distant homage to his invention of vulcanization of rubber.