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Remains of New Yorkers found in Washington Square Park reinterned on park grounds

Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 

The remains of early New Yorkers that were buried in and around what is now Washington Square Park were laid to rest in a new home.

The remains were found during construction in and around Washington Square Park between 2008 and 2017. The human remains were placed in a wooden box and reinterned in the park. Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn volunteered their services for the excavation that was overseen by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Director of Archaeology.

“Making sure that those who have gone before us are remembered with dignity and respect is a critical part of Green-Wood’s mission,” Richard J. Moylan, President of The Green-Wood Cemetery, said. “We are honored to provide our expertise on such an important historical project.” 

Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 
Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 

“Today we honor these individuals and acknowledge Washington Square Park’s history as a final resting place for thousands of early New Yorkers,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “We are so grateful to our colleagues at Green-Wood Cemetery and the Landmarks Preservation Commission for their expertise and guidance on this important project.” 

Washington Square Park was constructed on the site of the city’s former potters field in the 1850s. Between 1797 and 1825, thousands of New Yorkers, including the unidentified, the indigent, and those who died of yellow fever, were buried there — several church burial grounds were also located in the northeast portion of the field.

Remains that were found in disturbed contexts were removed for reinterment at a later date. Because the remains were fragmentary, a forensic analysis did not yield extensive details about the individuals.  

“LPC was pleased to work with NYC Parks to help with the process of excavating and reinterring the human remains,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. “We are grateful to NYC Parks for ensuring that archaeology was appropriately completed, and the human remains were respectfully treated throughout the process.” 

“The land that we now call Washington Square Park has served thousands of New Yorkers in various capacities over the generations,” said Sheryl Woodruff, Washington Square Park Conservancy Deputy Director. “It is important to remember and respect the history of this space and the people that were laid to rest here. We are heartened to see these individuals returned to their final resting place. We are grateful to our colleagues at NYC Parks, Green-Wood Cemetery and the Landmarks Preservation Commission for their careful and considerate work.” 

The human remains were placed in a wooden box and buried five feet below grade within a planting bed in the park. The former gravesite is marked with an engraved paver near the Sullivan Street and Washington Square Park South entrance.  

Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 
Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 
Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 
Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 
Credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila 

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