Update 2:13 p.m! Confirmed by NYC Parks Department.
From Cristina DeLuca from NYC Parks Department Press Office:
Yes, I can confirm. Archaeologists and engineers are on the scene to make a preliminary report and nothing further is known at this time.
More information on the tombstone that may have been was uncovered on Friday, October 23rd at Washington Square Park during construction recently begun for WSP Redesign: Phase II.
Matt Kovary grew up in Greenwich Village, works nearby and passes by the location every day. He contacted WSP Blog on Friday after walking by the Park that afternoon when he noticed that there was a large hole dug about 6 feet below the surface in the fenced-off construction area, right at the perimeter of the chain-link fence on the southern edge at Washington Square South and Sullivan Street.
According to Mr. Kovary, there were two people inside the fence, a man and a woman, poring over and dusting off what appeared to be a tombstone which he believed had been recovered from the hole. They were taking pictures of it, and, when he asked whether it was indeed a tombstone, the woman would only state that it was “sandstone,” admitting she was not authorized to talk about it.
Mr. Kovary said that the artifact looked like “a tombstone, not unlike those you’d see at Trinity Church – but in much better condition.” He wondered if it could have been “related to the original land owner” and questioned whether this came from a “family cemetery” from 200 years ago or more.
Although skeletons and human bones from the Park’s time period as a “potter’s field” (1797-1825) have been discovered as recently as last year (see WSP blog entry “The Skeletons of Washington Square Park” – it’s believed more than 20,000 bodies are buried under the park), there seems to be less information about – and discovery related to – private cemetery usage before the area was a New York City park.
In Emily Kies Folpe’s book “It Happened on Washington Square,” she writes:
From time to time, some of these old bones have resurfaced. …
More evidence was uncovered in 1890, when workmen digging the foundation for the Arch came upon headstones with German inscriptions dating to 1803, thought to be from a private German graveyard at the north side of the field.
Now confirmed – as first reported here October 23rd! – the discovery of a tombstone at Washington Square Park during Phase II construction. More to come.