Posts Tagged ‘AIDS in New York City’

The lonely grave of a child who died of AIDS

May 14, 2012

Since 1869, more than 800,000 paupers and unknowns have been buried on Hart Island.

This slip of land in the East River is New York’s Potter’s Field, where inmates from nearby Rikers Island place coffins in mass plots topped by granite markers.

Yet there’s one solitary plot, dated 1985, that’s especially heartbreaking: it’s the final resting place of the first child to die of AIDS whose body was brought to Hart Island.

Melinda Hunt, vice president of the Hart Island Project, describes how she and a photographer discovered the plot after visiting the island in 1992:

“Buried deep in the wooded area, however, there was one marker with an unusual number, ‘SC-B1, 1985,'” writes Hunt.

“Upon inquiry, we found that the marker belonged to a solitary grave of the first child victim of AIDS to be buried on Hart Island. Extra precautions were taken to bury the child in a separate and deeper grave.”

“This AIDS grave seemed like a ‘tomb to an unknown child.’ It came to represent all children who were yet to die of AIDS as well as child victims of earlier epidemics.”

This photo of the granite grave marker comes from the Hart Island Project website.

Who was this child—and what circumstances made a lonely patch of Hart Island his or her final resting place? Records must exist somewhere.

[Photo at right: ©1991 Fred Conrad/The New York Times. It was reprinted in 2006.]

The long, tragic history of a Chelsea bathhouse

May 9, 2011

The luxurious Everard Baths, opened in a former Romanesque Revival–style church at 28 West 28th Street in 1888, was supposed to be a place devoted to health and fitness. Really.

Started by James Everard, who made a fortune running the Everard Brewery on 135th Street, the baths launched amid the Turkish bath fad of the 1800s.

“Unlike ordinary public baths, where workers went to wash if they didn’t have bathrooms, Turkish baths were popular among the middle class and wealthy, who frequented them to relax in the pools,” explained a 1977 New York Times article.

Turkish baths had another clientele: gay men.

By the 1920s, the baths had become a “bathhouse and dormitories,” divided into tiny cubicles.

The Everard existed for decades as another unmarked bathhouse occasionally subjected to police raids.

But then on May 25, 1977, a fire broke out there, killing nine young men.

The Everard was open for another nine years until the city shut it down in 1986 in response to the AIDS epidemic.

Today, the unassuming building on a dingy Chelsea block houses a wholesale clothing distributor.