Old burial site found at Northern Liberties construction site

Skyfox flew over a mystery at 5th and Spring Garden, where a church and cemetery once stood a century ago. As it turns out, not all of the human remains were removed.

"I don’t have the slightest idea what could be over there. Could you tell me?" asked a resident.

"Yeah, it’s a bunch of human bodies," replied FOX 29’s Hank Flynn.

"Are you kidding?" the resident asked.

Skyfox video showed what looked like old burial sites in a hole dug in the parking lot of the Dollar General at 5th and Spring Garden. Doug Mooney, of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, says he only found out about the discovery Monday, but he had information to share.

"We believe these individuals were buried in the cemetery of the 5th Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which existed on that site from somewhere in the 1830’s until sometime after the Civil War. At which time, the congregation sold the property and moved to other locations," Mooney relayed.

Mooney adds that the congregation tried to move remains from its burial ground, but were not 100 percent successful. Permits are issued for a new 12-story mixed use development with an Amazon grocery store. But, with an old graveyard buried in the parking lot, what will happen?

"The developer should petition the Philadelphia Orphans Court, and ask for permission to exhume or relocate these remains. Once they get that permission, the court has oversight over all future activities then," Mooney explained.

After reaching out to Orphans Court, the coroner’s office and Department of Health, L&I spokesperson Karen Guss emailed saying developers have done extensive archaeological testing at the site and have been in touch with Orphans Court. She went on to say the next move is the developers contact the church congregation’s descendants to learn their wishes regarding the found remains. The Orphans Court will call the shots going forward, because even the dead have rights.

Mooney says it’s Philadelphia’s job to make sure it follows through.

"These are the ancestors of all Philadelphians. They deserve respectful treatment. And, they need the city to step up and make sure that the right thing is done," Mooney added.



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