Located in the West Village of Manhattan, Washington Square Park is a common meet-up place for NYU students as they shuffle between classes. It's a quaint destination in its own right, and the space is often filled with the sounds of live classical pianists who drag their favorite instruments into the park to entertain passersby.
But there is one thing that's decidedly un-classy about the park: it was once a massive burial site, as evidenced by the 19th-century vault that was just discovered beneath the surface. While carrying out some routine renovations, workers came across human skeletons.
One of the most popular parks in Manhattan, Washington Square Park is owned by New York University, and it was built in 1871.
Before this, however, it was a "potter's field"...which basically means that it was a mass grave for criminals and poor people.
This large vault from the 19th century was discovered by workers below the eastern corner of the park.
It contained the bodies of at least a dozen people who died between 1797 and 1826. Scientists estimate that over 20,000 people were buried in this vault during that period.
Many have since decayed.
It's possible that the people in this vault could have been members of two nearby churches that were demolished years ago.
Archaeologists are working out what to do with the bodies. Should they be left alone in their tomb, or be moved somewhere outside of Manhattan? As a person who lives in this city, I would personally prefer if dead people didn't hang out near my water supply. But that's just me.