We’ve covered the fascinating, morbid, and tragic history of Hart Island, New York City’s “potter’s field,” or mass burial ground since 1869, and even interviewed a resident who was housed in a rehab center there in the 1970s. Now, a recent New York Times exposé reveals even more stories and secrets of Hart Island, located in Long Island Sound off the Bronx, the final resting place to over one million of the city’s unclaimed, unidentified or forgotten residents. Combining new information with historical ones we’ve covered in the past, we present the secrets of Hart Island.
The location of New York City’s potter’s fields (a term which the New York Times explains comes from the Bible) follows the path of the city’s development from the early days of the country. Potters fields were located in what was considered far enough from what were then the boundaries of the current settlement. Many of our most notable parks were once potters fields, including Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, Madison Square Park, Bryant Park, and more.
Hart Island was purchased by New York City in 1868, used prior as a prison camp for Confederate soldiers during World War II, and burials began in 1869.