NYC Parks reinterred the fragmentary remains of early New Yorkers found during construction in and around Washington Square Park this past March, 2021.. Green-Wood Cemetery volunteered their services for excavation, which was overseen by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Director of Archaeology. The human remains were placed in a wooden box and buried five feet below grade within a planting bed in the park. An engraved paver marks the site, near the Sullivan Street and Washington Square Park South entrance.
“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.”
“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.”
Richard J. Moylan, President of The Green-Wood Cemetery, said, “Making sure that those who have gone before us are remembered with dignity and respect is a critical part of Green-Wood’s mission. We are honored to provide our expertise on such an important historical project.”
“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 uncovered during construction in and around Washington Square Park between 2008 and 2017. In consultation with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), remains found in disturbed contexts were removed for reinterment at a later date. Because the remains were fragmentary, forensic analysis did not yield extensive details about the individuals.
Washington Square Park was constructed in the 1850s at the site of the City’s former potter’s field. From 1797 until 1825, thousands of people — including the unidentified, the indigent, and those who died of yellow fever — were buried there, with several church burial grounds also located in the northeast portion of the site.
Read about the Public Burial Ground in Washington Square Park by New York City Cemetery Project.
The Washington Square Park Blog asks the question, Should Washington Square Park Identify 20,000 Dead Bodies Beneath it?