Central State Cemetery remains ‘mangled’ during construction

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The Indiana Museum of Medical History said Indianapolis police knowingly disturbed a historic cemetery during construction on the city’s west side.

The museum in a press release posted said the construction of a trench for a water line to the new K9 training facility near the Central State Hospital cemetery “crushed and mutilated” the remains of three people buried in the area.

Central State Hospital was a psychiatric treatment hospital in Indianapolis that operated from 1848 until it closed in 1992. The Indiana Museum of Medical History, now housed on the hospital’s old campus, worked in recent years to identify and mark graves in the hospital cemetery.

Museum officials said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department continued construction in an area where patients were buried from 1848 to 1905 before archaeologists could determine the location of burial sites in the area. .

“They did this knowing the cemetery was there and without an archaeologist on site to monitor the excavation for any burial signs and to halt work if any were found,” the museum said.

The city owns the land where the cemetery is located, according to the museum.

IMPD, in a statement to IndyStar, said contractors began construction of the facility in August “based on … protocols established by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for handling archaeological finds.” .

IMPD noted that an archaeologist remained on site for the rest of the project after the remains were discovered in October.

After the Ministry of Natural Resources was notified of the discovery of the remains, archaeologists were brought in to “properly and respectfully exhume” the remains of 10 additional people, according to the museum.

Beth McCord, director of the DNR’s Historic Preservation Division, acknowledged that building the facility damaged a number of graves, but said no laws were broken in the process.

“According to state law, everything was tracked from our point of view on this,” McCord told IndyStar. “The city apparently couldn’t avoid the graves in the construction of utilities.”

McCord noted that state law requires a “cemetery development plan” for those building within 100 feet of a known cemetery. But she added that city entities are exempt from this requirement.

“They didn’t really need to plan, unfortunately, until they encountered the human remains,” McCord said, noting that once builders encountered remains they stopped construction, alerted the coroner and eventually had the rest of the remains exhumed in the front area. construction resumed.

Construction in the area wrapped up last week, McCord said. “As far as I know, there will be no more ground disturbance and no more potentially impacted graves,” she added.

But the museum, in its statement, said further damage was done to the site after the other remains were unearthed by archaeologists. They said the contractors had drilled “at two additional points” and to depths “consistent with the varying depths of the graves unearthed by archaeologists”.

“We may never know the full extent of this potential damage,” the museum said in a statement. “It’s just not OK. The need for it is debatable, and it hasn’t been done transparently.”

Contact Lawrence Andrea at 317-775-4313 or landrea@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @lawrencegandrea.

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