Joan Geismar boasts a job that’ll make any urban explorer jealous. For the past 32 years, she’s operated her own business as an archaeological consultant, digging underneath the streets of New York City to find what historical remnants remain. Her career kicked off in 1982, with the major discovery of an 18th-century merchant ship at a construction site near the South Street Seaport. (The land is now home to the 30-story tower 175 Water Street.) Other discoveries include digging up intact remnants of wooden water pipes, components of the city’s first water system, at Coenties Slip Park; studying the long-defunct burial ground at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and working alongside the renovation in Washington Square Park, in which she made a major revelation about the former Potter’s Field there.
With 6sqft, she discusses what it felt like unearthing a ship in Lower Manhattan, the curious headstone she found underneath Washington Square Park, and what people’s trash can tell us about New York history.