Save Our Ship!

When Julia Wilbur landed on the Alexandria dock, she took one of the numerous steamboats that went back and forth between Washington and Alexandria, 25 cents a trip. The wharves were busy with people and goods being pack up and shipped out. In the 1700s, the waterfront was shaped like a large crescent. Over time, to provide greater access to the deep water, numerous construction projects filled in the crescent.

It turns out that these early port-improvers used whatever materials they had available--including pieces of "trash" ships, a recent find a few months ago at 22o South Union Street, future site of the Hotel Indigo.

SOS Spring2ActionSmaller
SOS Spring2ActionSmaller

Because of the city's Archaeological Code (one of the earliest, and strongest, in the U.S.), developers much do a study and excavate as warranted. Most probably, any developer along the waterfront should expect some excavation. As happened here.

According to city archaeologist Fran Bromberg, documents already showed the possible presence of a 1755 warehouse built by John Carlyle, one of the leading residents (and builder of the home were the Greens of Mercy Street fame later lived). Archaeologists also found a privy, which for now mysteriously had large numbers of old shoes thrown down it.

In the far corner of the site, they found the pieces of ship that was used as a bulkhead in the 1780s. It was a massive undertaking to create the fill at the time. It was probably almost as massive to take the pieces out in 2016, and they are now soaking in water in enormous dumpsters. As Fran explained, consistency is key--since the pieces were wet, they need to stay wet; if dry, they would have needed to stay dry. A multi-year conservation and eventual re-construction of the ship is planned.

You have the chance to see the pieces and learn about the process April 14-16 at the storage facility, 116 South Quaker Lane. Timed tickets (suggested donation $10) are going fast. I attended a training yesterday to be one of the tour volunteers.

You can read about more at Alexandria Archaeology.

Sign up for a tour here. I am told that the slots for Saturday are going fast.

Print Friendly and PDF