Washington Square Park

Posted on October 3, 2019

Washington Square Park is one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks. The arch that might resemble the Arc De Triomphe might be what some would describe as one of the reasons how they can identify it. The park is one of the most popular hangout spots of so many students that attend nearby New York University. And it is also a place where so many entertainers set up shop to perform for people passing through. But it might also be the place of some other visitors that may be seen one second and gone the next. Could it be the place where so many mortals visit be a walking ground among the spirits of the dead? Here, we will be talking about the park and its history and how it might be haunted somehow. The story of what it was before it became one of New York’s most famous parks might just shock you.

History Of The Park

Source: [https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a2/20140526-WashingtonArch_SouthFace_Night.jpg/1920px-20140526-WashingtonArch_SouthFace_Night.jpg]

The land where the park sits today was situated near a Native American settlement known as Sapokanican or “tobacco field” in the 17th century. By this point, Dutch settlers had already established themselves in the area, having named their settlement “New Amsterdam”. Most of the farmland in the surrounding area was Dutch-owned. Portions of the land were later given to residents of Angolan descent with the intent of creating a buffer zone between themselves (the Dutch) and the Native Americans. Both the Dutch and Native Americans were on tense terms due to the land in the surrounding area.

The land that was gifted from the Dutch were owned by slaves that were considered “half-free”. These farmlands were situated in the same area where much of the park is today. Over time, more land was given to freed slaves as part of their deal. However, the landowners had to pay a land fee and an additional fee to the Dutch West India Company. This colony laid ground in creating the first African-American community in the United States. At one point, an area of the park was known as a settlement dubbed “Little Africa” (and also known as “The Land Of The Blacks”).

Development Of A Burial Ground

Source: [https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Washington_Square_Park_Grand_Reopening.jpg/1920px-Washington_Square_Park_Grand_Reopening.jpg]

Throughout the period of the United States Revolution, most of the land that was made for farming was acquired by the Common Council of New York. Specifically, the land located east of the Minetta Creek was targeted for a potter’s field or public cemetery. Their intent was to bury citizens that were known as indigent or unidentified by the public at the time of their deaths. This land would be put to good use when the City of New York suffered a yellow fever epidemic that killed dozens of people. Since the land was located away from what was considered New York City at the time, the burial grounds were used since they were located far from the city and at a safe distance away from people as a precaution.

One of the stories that had been told about the burial ground was the planting of an oak tree located in the central area. It had been said that a public execution was said to have occurred here at some point in the 18th or 19th century. Although there have been no known records of this execution, it might still be considered an urban legend to this day. However, some historians claim that the tree may have been located where the Washington Square Park fountain sits today.

The cemetery was closed in 1825. At the time, more than 20,000 bodies were buried beneath the surface of the ground. This set the stage for what might be one of the Big Apple’s most haunted places as of today. The stories of human remains and the discovery of tombstones dating back to the 1790s might just be a small sample of what stories of the kind of paranormal and spiritual activity that could very well be happening in Washington Square Park.

The Formation Of Washington Square Park

A year after the closure of the potter’s field, the City of New York purchased the remaining land that was located to the west of Minetta Creek. In a short amount of time, a square was laid out and was used as a parade ground. These were designed to hold military parades that showcased America’s military might. For a time, it was also a place where the military would also train. The land surrounding the square would soon become a desirable area for real estate purposes (preferably residential). By the 1830s, a row of Greek-style homes was erected on the north side of the square.

The park underwent renovations between 1849 and 1850. But it underwent a complete redesign in 1871 when the newly formed New York City Department of Parks began to execute their own plans on how to develop the park. One of the most notable changed included curved walking paths and a water fountain (which was completed in 1852). It would remain on the grounds for twenty years until it was replaced.

The arch that sits on the park grounds today was a monument that was built in honor of the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s ascension to the presidency. The arch was made from Tuckahoe Marble with the design bearing a resemblance of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Because of the construction of the arch, excavation of the land was needed. It was at this point in time when the initial discovery of human remains and gravestones had occurred. These instances would continue to occur on occasions even well into the 21st century. Most of these remains, gravestones, and coffins would typically be found more than 8 to 10 feet below the ground. By the middle of the 20th century, two statues bearing the likeness of the park’s namesake (George Washington) were erected on the grounds of the park.

In 1934, redesign plans were underway. But this time, they came at a time when the Depression was in full swing. Meanwhile, activists were also locked up in a fight with New York City Park Commissioner Robert Moses. The city and activists were in a decades-long fight that would hinder the plans of a complete redesign of the park. Most notably, then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was opposed to the plans. It is because of this why no vehicles are able to access the park, thus making it accessible by walking.

Occurrences Of Paranormal Activity

While the park is said to be lively during the day, it is said that at night that it might be a whole different animal. Many NYU students have reported coming across random cold spots and the discovery of random figures that would come and go over time. While these specters remain in place, the stories of the park once being a public burial ground of the city’s dead might be one that would leave your hair standing on end.

If you ever go to the Big Apple and call yourself a sucker for all things paranormal, the best time to go to Washington Square Park would be at night. This way, you might be able to discover some pretty eerie activities going on at the park. In the city that never sleeps, it might be the one place where you are walking around in a graveyard at night (and the big surprise, most people don’t even know it until they find out somehow, someway).

Conclusion

Washington Square Park might still have remains, tombstones, and coffins still underground to this day. For as long as the dead remain buried below the grounds of the park, you can bet that some spirits are still looming around more than 200 years after they’ve left their mortal coil.

 

Sources:

https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/gothicnyc/category/haunted-washington-square-park/

https://untappedcities.com/2012/03/16/hidden-history-of-washington-square-park/

http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2017/10/ghosts-greenwich-village-four-tales-haunted-houses-forgotten-graveyards.html