Employees of the Department of Design and Construction are definitely being kept on their toes this week. After uncovering a hidden vault containing the skeletal remains of at least a dozen people believed to be approximately 200 years old, workers have uncovered a second burial vault, this one filled with wood coffins. Workers tasked with upgrading 19th-century water mains under the park stumbled upon the latest burial ground Wednesday night, a day after their first finding at the corner of Waverly Place and Washington Square Park East.
Like the first vault discovered on Tuesday night (above), this one sits three and a half feet underground and is believed to be associated with one of two late 18th/early 19th century churches in the vicinity—the Pearl Street Church and the Cedar Street Church—that have since been razed. Independent archaeologist Alyssa Loorya of Chyrsalis Archeological Consultants has been hired to investigate the vaults and yesterday she told DNA Info that “you normally don’t find burial vaults beneath the city streets” and added that vaults could each hold the bones of just one family.
Numerous tombs and bodies have been found beneath and around Washington Square Park over the decades. The area was once a potters field, a burial ground for the poor, and later a resting place for those who died from yellow fever. There is surely more left to be unearthed.
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