Not sure if all this is absolutely true–read it on the Internets, after all–but here we go:
Those chess players that inhabit the southwest corner of Washington Square have been there a very long time. Apparently, enthusiasts of the game have been capturing rooks and pawns in city parks since the 1940s. World-champion Bobby Fischer played here in WS in the 70s, as did Heath Ledger and Stanley Kubrick (though presumably not against each other.)
Speaking of famous folks, it’s said that in1887, while Robert Louis Stevenson was visiting the U.S. for medical treatment for tuberculosis, he met Mark Twain in the park for a visit. The two had a nice, five-hour sit-down before Stevenson headed upstate to a sanitorium. (Oh, to be a fly on the bench…)
Beware of zombies! In 1797, Washington Square was converted from farmland to a Potter’s Field–a place to bury the homeless, convicts and unclaimed John Does. An early 19th century epidemic of yellow fever increased the number of non-living inhabitants drastically; patients who succumbed to the deadly disease were buried downtown as a hygienic measure to keep them segregated as much as possible from the general population. (In fact, during the recent park renovations, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of four people.) If it ever feels a little crowded around here, remember that an estimated 20,000 people are buried beneath the stones and fountains of Washington Square.
Have a great weekend, everyone. And remember–watch out for the zombies and hold onto that Queen!