The remains of a ship dating back to the Revolutionary War have been found at a site of a new hotel under construction in Virginia.
Local archaeologists in Alexandria are now scrambling to identify the story behind the 250-year-old sailing ship. The area once was in the Potomac River before it was backfilled two centuries ago to expand Alexandria’s waterfront.
“A remarkable archaeological dream basically,” Francine Bromberg, who has been the archaeologist in Alexandria for a quarter century, told Fox 5. “We know that this ship was put in place sometime between 1775 and 1798.”
But who owned it? What did it carry? Who sailed on it? For now, that remains a mystery.
John Mullen, the principal archeologist for Thunderbird Archeology, the firm responsible for monitor the construction for any historic finds, told The Washington Post that the ship probably was built to carry heavy cargo or was used by the military. It may also have provided the foundation to fill in the cove at Port Lumley, one of the locations where deep-water channels of the Potomac advance to the shoreline.
The ship’s partial hull – currently under a blue tarmac at the hotel construction site – has become a popular draw among local residents. The find comes just months after construction workers discovered a 1755 foundation from a warehouse which is believed to be the city’s first public building, according to The Washington Post.
As soon as the fences were opened up to let people get a peek at the old ship, big crowds showed up.
“I think it’s great,” said one person. “It’s like a great window into the past.”
“It makes you wonder what else is hidden and underneath our ground here,” said another resident.
What is next for this 18th century ship? A 21st century water tank will be used to stabilize the wood. That will also give experts like Bromberg more time to solve the mystery of Alexandria’s newest piece of history.
There is a little historical irony going on here. There is a big debate in Alexandria over the waterfront and it even cost the last mayor his reelection. Some development opponents are not happy about this hotel, but this discovery might not have been found without the hotel’s construction. In fact, the ship might not have been buried here at all if Alexandria’s founders had not decided to develop this waterfront 200 years ago.