On Saturday, Alexandria left exposed for 4 hours the hull of an 18th-century ship uncovered during ongoing construction work on the block between Wolfe and Duke on Union. The ship is the largest of three undergoing excavations on the site and one of four discovered in a two-block area along the water; the fourth was encountered 18 months ago during construction of Hotel Indigo a block north.
The city’s Acting Archeologist told us during our visit that the ships were likely scuttled in 1798 as part of the city’s efforts to create more land on the waterfront to support warehouses of the port city.
The ship is about 46′ by 25′ and had reinforced futtocks (curved timber pieces forming the lower part of a ship’s frame) suggesting that it could have been used to haul military cargo. A bunch of volunteers at the event wore “Save our Futtocks” buttons promoting funding preservation efforts for the ship.
In addition to scuttling the ships to extend the shoreline, the city also used cribbing – rough boxes created with logs and filled with anything on hand – for the same purpose.
To be clear, this really wasn’t the most exciting find in the world and we were a little underwhelmed by the ship hull itself. That said, it’s great to see these historical remnants of the city’s early period exposed, interpreted, and open to the public during construction of a new development along the water and at the foot of Wolfe Street.
Save our Futtocks!