Volume 79, Number 21 | Oct. 28 - Nov. 03, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Tombstone turns up in Wash. Sq.

By Lincoln Anderson

With eerie pre-Halloween timing, an ancient tombstone has been unearthed in the second phase of the Washington Square Park renovation project.

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, the marker was uncovered last Friday in the park’s southwestern corner, where renovation work recently began. It was found about 2 feet belowground, at an angle. An archaeologist and the lead engineer on the job dug down 7 feet around the headstone, but found no human remains. In the renovation’s first phase, human bones were found near the restroom buildings on the park’s southern edge.

The burial marker is 210 years old. Made of gray stone, it is about 3 feet tall, rectangular, with the top corners curved in an “Edward Gorey, Victorian style,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s very pristine,” she said. There are no carvings or angel illustrations, just chiseled words, “very Victorian,” whose font is easy to read, she noted.

The spokesperson said the stone reads: “Here lies the body of James Jackson 28 years old Native of County Kildare, Ireland, September 22, 1799.” There is no birth date or cause of death or any other writing on the artifact.

“It seems to us that it was part of a potter’s field, but I can’t confirm that,” she said. The stone remains in the ground while the Parks Department continues its investigation.

A report will be issued early next week with more details. The recent heavy rain slowed down the archaeologist, Joan Geismar, from gathering more information, according to the spokesperson. What will be done with the stone is still to be determined, she said.

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