Vol. 24, No. 1 January 6, 2016

WSSI Archeologists Unearth Exceptional History in Alexandria

Archeologists with Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc.’s (WSSI) Thunderbird Archeology division have uncovered a Colonial era ship and a well-preserved section of a 1755 warehouse at the site of the future Hotel Indigo on Union Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Both discoveries were worthy of the front page of the Washington Post’s Metro section, and the ship story has earned international attention and garnered coverage from outlets including Smithsonian Magazine, CNN, The Huffington Post, Fox News, and USA Today.

WSSI archeologists have uncovered a Colonial era boat on the 220 S. Union Street site.

The ship, which WSSI staff uncovered on December 11, was intentionally buried when Alexandrians filled in the Potomac River to create new land. 30-40% of the port side of the ship is intact, including ceiling planks, framing, keel, external hull planking, deadwood and parts of the stern post. 3D laser scans will reveal construction details, and staff will screen the sand for artifacts so we can begin to unravel the mystery of its origin, date of construction, use and function. WSSI will work with maritime archeologists from the Navy (Naval History & Heritage Branch) as we document and research the ship.

“We are incredibly excited… It gives us a sense of what the city was like in the 18th century.”

Francine Bromberg, city archeologist, as quoted in the Washington Post, November 10, 2015

The City of Alexandria plans to conserve the wood timbers from this significant find for display and use, so WSSI will dismantle the ship with the help of the Navy and the City archeologists.

The Washington Post covered this exciting discovery on the front page of the January 5, 2016 Metro section and interviewed staff from WSSI’s Thunderbird Archeology division.

The Post also wrote about WSSI’s earlier discovery on the same construction site. WSSI archeologists had expected to find evidence of the 100x24’ public warehouse John Carlyle built on Point Lumley in 1755, but didn’t expect to find the high degree of wood preservation. The massive wood sills were preserved in situ, resting on a stone foundation, and some of the siding, joists, floorboards, and other wooden elements of the building were preserved for 260 years beneath the wet sediment.

We’ll continue to post updates and interesting photos on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts; you can also learn more about the 220 S. Union Street site on our webpage. If you have questions about our archeology work or our cultural resource services, please contact John Mullen, Boyd Sipe, or Anna Maas.