Hart Island is the largest public cemetery in the country and has served New York City since 1869. While Hart Island is currently only used for city burials, the island has served many uses since the 19th Century, including a quarantine station, a psychiatric hospital, a tuberculosis ward, a reform school, a homeless shelter, a rehabilitation facility, a military base, and a jail.
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) has announced the start of free public tours of Hart Island, the City’s public cemetery, in an effort to increase access to the island, reduce historical stigmas surrounding its past, and educate the public about its role as an important piece of City infrastructure.
Free public history tours led by the Urban Park Rangers will be held twice a month. Registration is required through this online form and participants will be selected by lottery.
All public history tours are done on foot and last approximately 2.5 hours, with ferry transportation provided to and from Hart Island.
Public tours will be held on the following dates:
December 5, 2023
December 19, 2023
January 16, 2024
January 30, 2024
February 13, 2024
February 27, 2024
March 12, 2024
March 26, 2024
April 9, 2024
April 23, 2024
May 14, 2024
May 28, 2024
The tours will encompass the history of the Island including how it became a municipal cemetery, wildlife and natural aspects, the burial process, and island advocacy.
Illustration: A lithograph of Hart Island from the late 19th century; and The Pavilion on Hart Island from above the roof of the Catholic chapel Alon Sicherman and Sean Vegezzi photo courtesy The Hart Island Project.