Con Ed Unearthed Washington Square Burial Vault 50 Years Ago, Covered It Over & Everyone Forgot About it

1965 New York Times Cover
1965 New York Times Cover

How quickly they forget. It turns out this is the second time in the last fifty years that the burial vault discovered last week under Washington Square Park has been dug up. An August 2, 1965 New York Times cover article alerts the reader: Skeletons Found in Washington Sq. The sub-heading: 25 Uncovered in Sealed Room at Con Ed Project.

Workers from Con Edison working alongside the park at that time unearthed the first vault which was dug up again last week. Perhaps because Con Ed re-routed their project back then, the second vault went undiscovered.

From the November 7, 2015 New York Times, Beneath Washington Square, Forgotten Tombs Begin to Yield Their Secrets addressing the previous discoveries and articles:

The relatively empty first vault had been encountered once before, 50 years ago, by Consolidated Edison workers. A front-page account in The New York Times described it as a tomb of some sort containing about 25 skeletons.

A few days later, the city and Con Ed announced that the company would seek a different spot to place a new transformer so that, as The Times put it, the skeletons could “continue their rest.”

A follow-up story in the Times on August 3, 1965 is titled: Bones to be left in Washington Sq: Underground Room Sealed — Con Ed to Dig Elsewhere.

In the articles, what is now referred to as a burial vault is alternately referred to as a chamber and a room, its size noted as “15 feet by 20 feet [with a] a 14 foot ceiling.”

The August 3rd piece also states that “part [of the chamber] extends under Washington Square East and part under the park.”

It’s interesting how there is so much emphasis on finding out who these people are now, the entire history of how the vaults, coffins and bodies came to be there, but there wasn’t fifty years ago. Will that interest be fully pursued? We’ll see.

* The Parks Department did note the 1965 Times article and this discovery in its 2005 Archaeological Assessment of Washington Square Park.

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Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Park history and an overview of (some of) The Skeletons of Washington Square Park.

Also, WSP Blog on first burial vault discovery and the second, both last week.

Photos last Thursday along Washington Square East at the site of discovery:

washington-square-east-burial-vaults-construction
washington-square-east-water-main-construction

Top image: New York Times cover
Bottom photos: Cathryn

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