Potters Field

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Potters Field
Also known as:  Hart Island Cemetery

Years of Use: April 20, 1869 to date
Location: Hart Island, east of City Island, Long Island Sound, Bronx
History: Louisa Van Slyke died in Charity Hospital without family of friends to claim her body. On 20 April 1869, she became the first person buried in Hart Cemetery. One million others are buried with her. Today, Hart Island Cemetery is the largest potter's field in the United States. Inmates from the prison on Riker's Island receive the dead, shipped to Hart Island on a ferry run by the Department of Corrections. The deceased's name and identification number are both carved into the coffin. A packet with other identifying information is attached to the coffin, and the deceased's name is again marked upon it, in indelible ink. The remains of all unidentified bodies are sent to Hart Island for interment after being photographed at the morgue. John and Jane Does constitute one-tenth of all burials. Approximately one hundred bodies are identified by relatives or friends each year. A body can be disinterred for up to eight years after the burial.
The cemetery is dotted with white markers, each denoting a mass burial of 150 bodies laid out in two rows, three coffins deep. None of the dead have personal grave markers, but there are two large monuments dedicated to all. Over the years, various sections of the island were developed by private and government entities. The cemetery continues to spread across the island and around these ruins as gravediggers clear the land for new burials.
Mailing Address:
c/o The Municipal Archives
31 Chambers Street
New York, New York 10007-1210
Phone Number: (212) 788-8582

For further information on the more recent burials, see this database:
The Hart Island Project: New York City public burials 1980-2008

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GPS Coordinates: 40.8581, -73.7706

  • Added: 2 Jan 2000
  • Find A Grave Cemetery: #65710