25 September 2008

Hart Island

I have many items on my list of New York City places I still must visit. But high on the tally for some time has been Hart Island.

Hart Island, at the western end of Long Island Sound and just east of the Bronx, is New York City's potter's field—the largest tax funded cemetery in the world. Gotham unfortunates who have died without funds and/or connections, have been buried on this flat, isolated piece of land since the Civil War. Rikers Island inmates conduct the mass burials. Hart Island has a spooky charisma and I've long wanted to visit, but the isle is off limits to regular citizens. The closest I've ever gotten was staring through a viewfinder at the southern tip of City Island.

The amazing Richard Nickel of Kingston Lounge, however, someone made his way ashore and took a raft of fascinating pictures. I've posted a few here, but go to his blog to see the whole collection. They're well worth it.

Novelist Dawn Powell, playwright Leonard Melfi and child actor Bobby Driscoll, each dying in relative obscurity, all ended up here. The former two were reclaimed and buried elsewhere. Oscar winner Driscoll still lies in Hart Island soil.


Anonymous said...

I am trying to organize a group to lobby the city council to change the administrative code to allow for visitation on days such as Open House New York. I set up a blog under comments on the portal that I am building to search the burial records. Please visit


Anonymous said...

My great grandfather was captured by the Yankees at the Battle of Five Forks and he was taken to Hart Island as a prisoner of war in April 1865. He was released and paroled 3 or 4 months later and made his way home to Danville Virginia.

Julie S. Lantz said...

My brother's been buried on the Island since 1972; I'm on a mission. Check out my blogs and website as follows: