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Green-Wood Cemetery reburies 200-year-old bodies under Washington Square Park

Remains were found during construction

March 2, 2021 Associated Press, and Raanan Geberer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Volunteers from historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on Tuesday helped reinter human remains of early New Yorkers, which were discovered during construction in and around Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park several years ago, inside the park, NYC Parks Department officials announced.

The remains, uncovered during construction between 2008 and 2017, were reburied with assistance from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission as well as Green-Wood. 

Eric Barna, Green-Wood’s vice president of operations, was on site, as well as a team of people from the cemetery’s Graves Department, according to a spokesperson for Green-Wood. In addition, the process was overseen by Landmarks’ Director of Archaeology Amanda Sutphin, according to the Parks Department.

Richard J. Moylan, president of 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.”

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“Today we honor these individuals and acknowledge Washington Square Park’s history as a final resting place for thousands of early New Yorkers,” Silver said. “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.”

Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Sarah Carroll thanked the Parks Department “for ensuring that archaeology was appropriately completed, and the human remains were respectfully treated throughout the process.”

Washington Square Park in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood was constructed in the 1850s at the site of a former potter’s field. Thousands of people had been buried there between 1797 and 1825, officials said. Among them were the indigent, the unidentified and people who died of yellow fever, as well as members of several churches in the neighborhood.

The partial remains that were reinterred on Tuesday were placed in a wooden box and buried in a planting bed with an engraved paving stone marking the spot, Parks Department officials said.

Because the remains were fragmentary, forensic analysis did not yield details about the individuals, the officials said.

Green-Wood Cemetery, founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, has been described as “Brooklyn’s first public park by default long before Prospect Park was created.” It was made a national historic landmark in 2006, and its famed 25th Street Gate, its Fort Hamilton Parkway Gate, its Weir Greenhouse and its chapel have been separately designated as city landmarks by LPC.

Among Green-Wood’s “permanent residents” are composers Leonard Bernstein and Louis Moreau Gottschalk; Henry Chadwick, the “father of baseball”; stained-glass designer Louis Comfort Tiffany;  Bill “the Butcher” Poole of the real-life “Gangs of New York”; Civil War veterans from both sides, and many more.

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