Virginia is rich with history. I think just about everyone knows that. I mean, it’s difficult to think about our state without at least envisioning Colonial Williamsburg, right? But this winter, an Alexandria, VA company had to put work on hold for some history of its own. And it’s some pretty interesting history.
During the construction of Hotel Indigo, a new 120-room hotel along Alexandria’s waterfront, archeologists discovered the remains of a Revolutionary War-era ship in the Potomac River mud. Although entombed in centuries of mud, researches have been given hints as to how colonists in 18th century North America built their boats. And this isn’t even the first discovery on this particular job site. A few months ago, the remains of an 18th century warehouse – believed to have been Alexandria’s first public building – were uncovered. This building had been listed on historical maps of Alexandria’s waterfront. There is no record of the particular ship found, however.
“It’s very rare,” Dan Baicy, an archeologist at Thunderbird Archeology says. “This almost never happens. In 15 years that I’ve done this work, I’ve never run into this kind of preservation in an urban environment where there is so much disturbance. In December 2015, crews were first alerted of the existence of this ship when they uncovered the bow during excavation. Almost a third of the original hull has been dug up since then, stretching about 50 feet from keep, to framework, to stern. Although researchers are unsure exactly who made the ship or what it was used for, they suspect it was a military vessel or a cargo ship.
Thanks to the oxygen-starved mud in which it was preserved, and without air bubbles to help speed up the ship’s decomposition, the remains survived the muddy silt of the Potomac for 300 years. And there’s more behind the excitement of this find. Construction has taken place on Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront for centuries, and workers laying brick for a warehouse had just barely missed the boat.
Archeologists have since found three outhouses while surveying the site. And shoes, Baicy says. “For some reason, we’ve found a lot of shoes.”
For a little update since the dig first began, visit this website.