A discovery on a construction site in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia has shocked the local public. A construction team was preparing an area for a new hotel that is going up, and found what remains of a ship from approximately 1775-1798. The ship was found in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia on South Union Street by the Potomac River Waterfront. The ship’s discovery in Alexandria is a major find for archeologists.
According to the Washington Post, a ship’s hull was found dating to 1775. It was found in a warehouse that is thought to be Alexandria’s oldest building.
“It’s very rare. This almost never happens,” said Dan Baicy, the hard-hatted field director for Thunderbird Archeology, the firm watching for historic evidence during construction. “In 15 years that I’ve done this work, I’ve never run into this kind of preservation in an urban environment where there’s so much disturbance.”
Hotel Indigo is supposed to go up in the same spot, but full excavation will take additional time. Naval archeologists are now at the site, dismantling the ship plank by plank to see what information they can glean from their find.
The Smithsonian says the ship is Revolutionary war era, and likely built by colonists.
“This is like the jewel in the crown for us right now,” Thunderbird’s principal archaeologist, John Mullen, tells Sullivan.
This is the second find in the same area of Union Street. The first was a building foundation dated to the same time.
“Researchers have long known that construction along Alexandria’s waterfront could uncover the remains of sunken ships, as late-18th century workers once used them as the framework for the landfill process used to extend the waterfront,” Mary Ann Barton writes for Old Town Alexandria Patch. “But finding two well-preserved historical finds at the same construction site is a different story.”
For now, the section of ship that has been found is over fifty feet from hull to keel. The ship was so well preserved because it was steeped in mud, which stopped oxygen from getting in to break down the materials. Near the ship, they also discovered three outhouses which were also used as trash cans in colonial times. And one of the stranger finds? Shoes, lots of shoes.
NBC Washington went down to the site to see the progress being made in freeing the ship from its muddy resting place. The ship was found at the corner of Union and Strand, and it’s thought to be military-related.
The Alexandria Times has been following the excavation closely, eager to learn what the archeologists have found. Francine Bromberg, the Alexandria city archeologist believes that so much can be learned by this find so close to Washington DC.
“You could think of this as being the first public works project in the city,” she said. “It is a public project, so all the other land along the cove was sold off in parcels, but this particular point remained public land and so the warehouse was a publicly-owned building.”
The warehouse is thought to have been built by a Scottish immigrant who came to live in Alexandria, Virginia, and housed the Bryant Fertilizer Company.
“It really is one of the earliest structures that has been archaeologically discovered on the waterfront, so is highly significant. [It] results from this implementation of the Archaeological Protection Code, which requires us to review it and then to determine the level of work, which in this case was complete documentary study,” said Bromberg. “[We] then do archaeological testing on the site to determine if resources are present. This is six years after the founding of the town, so here we are really going back to the very essence of what were those earliest days in Alexandria.”
The planks from the ship are quickly being sent to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory to be processed and then slowly freeze-dried for preservation. More details continue to emerge as there is much more digging to do at the Alexandria site.
Are you interested in checking out the remains of the ship in Old Town Alexandria?
[Photo courtesy of Wikipedia]