Last week, local preservationists called for a complete archaeological evaluation of the grounds below Mary Help of Christians Church on East 12th Street. The site was once home to a cemetery, and the groups are concerned that some burial plots may remain.
Developer Douglas Steiner has plans to convert the property into a residential complex.
After the rally, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman made a discovery... he recently wrote about it on GVSHP's Off the Grid blog:
[R]eturning to our East 11th Street offices after yesterday’s rally, we saw something on the block we had seen many times before, but now, armed with the knowledge of the former cemetery’s existence, viewed in an entirely new light.
On the western side of the block, running between what is now called Open Road Park and the rear walls of the properties which line the 1st Avenue end of the block, is a mysteriously out-of-place stone wall. And this wall just may be the western wall of the long-vanished cemetery.
Berman makes his case with some archival maps of the street, like this one from 1867...
As he notes:
By 1867 the First Avenue frontage of the cemetery had been sold off and tenements built. So where this stone wall now stands was, from 1867 on, the boundary between the cemetery and the residential structures to the west.
You can read the whole post here. It's an interesting read, and possibly more proof that the city should conduct a search for remains before Steiner's project moves forward.
Early last year, preservationists submitted a request to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking them to landmark the church. The LPC denied the request. (Read about that here.)
Metro has an article on all this today as well. Find that piece here.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Permits filed to demolish Mary Help of Christians church, school and rectory
Preservationists call for archeological review of former cemetery at Mary Help of Christians site