Washington Square Park is one of Manhattan's most famous parks. Today, on a visit to Washington Square Park, you'll find mostly NYU students, moms with strollers and dogs, street performers, and a few drug dealers.
But did you know that the park was once a burial ground and that the remains of 20,000 bodies still rest under Washington Square Park?
The land under Washington Square Park was farmland until 1797, when it was purchased by the city for use as a public burial ground or potter's field for deceased New Yorkers who couldn't afford other last rites.
The burial ground was also used for victims of the yellow fever epidemics of the early nineteenth century. For hygienic reasons, the decision was made to bury those who died of yellow fever outside the city proper.
Legend also has it that Washington Square Park was the site of the public gallows during the same time period. In 1826, the burial ground was turned into a military parade ground.
The famous Washington Square arch (designed by Stanford White) wasn't built until 1892.