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Washington Square


on Walnut St. between 6th & 7th, Philadelphia, PA


The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Washington Square is one of the original five squares that were laid out in 1682 when William Penn was planning the city of Philadelphia. At that time, it was called Southeast Square, since the Quakers did not believe in naming places for people.
From approximately 1704 to 1794, the square was used as a "potter's field" and a burial yard for strangers. Generally, the unfortunates interred here were simply wrapped in canvas and buried without coffins or ceremony.
The Joshua carpenter family purchased a private family burial ground in the center of the square when a female family member committed suicide and was unable to be buried in the church cemetery.
Rites like those of the Mexican "Day of the Dead" were also practiced in the burial ground - the black community would go to the graves of their friends and relatives and leave offerings of food and rum. Slaves were allowed to use the square during holidays, holding dances and honoring the "sleeping dust" below.
By the mid 1700's, the square was found to be good pasture land, and was leased by Jasper carpenter for that purpose. This pastoral period was brief. In 1776, fallen soldiers from the Colonial Army were buried in the square. Pits were dug along 7th street and the coffins were piled in on top of one another until the space was full. Pits were then dug out on the south side of the square and put to the same use. The british took Philadelphia in 1777, and used the Walnut Street Jail, which faces Washington Sqaure, to hold their prisoners. The conditions were less than ideal, and more unfortunates were buried int he park. The park was also used as a mass garve during the yellow fever epidemic in 1793.


The square was no longer used as a cemetery in 1805, but improvements did not begin until 1815, when it began its transformation into a public park. It was named Washington Square in 1825, to honor George Washington.
In spite of the beautification projects, echoes of the squares macabre past may still be heard today. The square is said to be haunted by Leah, a Quaker woman who patrolled the cemetery late at night to protect the deceased from graverobbers. She has been seen by many ghost tour guests, and even by a Philadelphia City police officer. A paranormal investigator had a heart attack after seeing something in this park. As you visit the park, please take notice of this - although the nearby streets and many of the other parks are full of homeless people sleeping on the benches, Washington Square is nearly deserted.

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