Notes from the Board: Richard J. Moylan
October 12, 2015 | by Richard J. Moylan, Board Member
Article from the Fall 2015 Newsletter
I am a latecomer to preservation.
My history at Green-Wood Cemetery dates back to 1972, when, as a teenager, I learned to mow lawns as efficiently as possible. As I rose through the ranks, I worried about budgets, union contracts and yes, still lawn mowing. Preservation was not top of mind.
A turning point came a mere 20 years ago when I had the good fortune to meet Joseph and Adrienne Bresnan, architects, preservationists, and both Fellows of the AIA. As Vice President at Remco Maintenance, Joseph was a bidder on the restoration of our landmark designated Gothic Arch entry gates. He recommended stripping all the coatings that had accumulated over many years. I was appalled. “The structure will look ‘old,’” I protested.
Of course, Joseph was right and we’ve never looked back. The Bresnans are responsible for Green-Wood’s “Saved in Time” monument conservation program. They made certain I joined all of the right organizations and met all of the right people such as Kent Barwick, Peg Breen, and the Archive Project’s very own, Tony Wood. To this day, they continue to school me on historic preservation.
A second defining moment in my growth was a trip to Europe with the Historic Cemetery Alliance, an informal group of historic cemeteries of which I am now the Chair (probably because I am the only original member left!). Then-Chairman, the visionary Bill Clendaniel of Mount Auburn Cemetery, defined what cemeteries are and should be. While many members dared not ask their boards for permission to go, Green-Wood’s wise Chairman, Payson Coleman did not hesitate to send me. The beautiful English cemeteries and Paris’s Pere Lachaise were on the agenda, but most elucidating was visiting gardens and estates like Stowe, Stourhead, and Versailles. There I learned about English landscape architect Capability Brown and how the landscape could work with a built environment—yes, even a cemetery.
My preservation education continued in 2003 when amateur baseball historian Peter Nash penned a book about the early baseball stars buried at Green-Wood. At the end of his research, Peter handed me original 19th-century documents he had unearthed from our non-protected records. Their value, he estimated, was at least $50,000. From that day, I became acutely aware of the value of our paper records. We continue to make great strides to protect our archives and to make the information available to the public.
Early on, the Bresnans recommended I attend the Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit. It’s an event that I will not miss. Getting to know the many extraordinary past and current Board members has been a highlight of my preservation education—topped only by Tony Wood’s invitation to me to join the Archive Project Board.
As a relatively new member, I am still learning. But, it’s a privilege to count myself among such a magnificent group.