This week, we told you all about the secret places and things to do in New York City—the odd buildings, underground mysteries and little-known scandals that make this metropolis so darn interesting. And now, we've got a more in-depth look at one of those secrets: the crypts beneath St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
The cathedral property was originally purchased in 1801 by the trustees of St. Peter’s Church (the first Catholic church in New York), to be used as a cemetery for members of the faith. Thanks to the rapid growth of the city's Catholic population, the trustees decided to construct a cathedral on the land, and it was completed in 1815. But by the middle of the 19th century, burials in Manhattan were outlawed for health reasons—corpses weren’t being buried deep enough, and groundwater was being contaminated—and, with a few exceptions, no one has been interred on the church's grounds since.
But that doesn't mean St. Pat's hasn't been used for funerals; since the 1820s, many of its members have been buried in the underground crypts, which are enclosed tombs made with brick and cement. Among those buried within are captains of industry, merchants, bankers and lawyers. All of the vaults and coffins are hermetically sealed to avoid decomposition gases entering the cathedral above. Below, check out a photo tour of the crypts and learn some of the spot's spooky secrets.