Historic Alexandria

Archaeologists Moving Historic Ship Remains To Alexandria Pond for Preservation

The remains of three historic ships are being relocated to Brenman Pond for preservation. (Zebra file photo)

UPDATE, May 12: The Office of Historic Alexandria announced this afternoon that SeeWorthy in the Park has been cancelled due to the possibility of inclement weather on Sunday. The program will be rescheduled.

ALEXANDRIA, VA -Yesterday the engineering and archaeology firm AECOM, in collaboration with the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, began the process of moving some historic ship remnants. The project is estimated to take four to six weeks to complete.

Four years ago, during construction at the Robinson Landing site, workers found the remains of three wooden ships. At that time, archaeologists with the city decided to temporarily store the artifacts in water tanks to prevent decay. (A fourth was found during the construction of Hotel Indigo. It is undergoing conservation in Texas.)

The Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA), Department of Project Implementation, and Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities worked together to choose a site for relocation of the remains. They selected Ben Brenman Pond after much analysis and a lengthy process. (The pond was originally a stormwater managment facility.)

Alexandria’s Historic Ship Discoveries: Where Are They Now?

The ship remains will be secured to the bottom of the pond and monitored regularly. In 20 to 25 years, archaeologists will reassess to decide whether or not to keep them on site.

“This is the next leg in a long and continuing journey for these historic ships, and we are eager to undertake this major preservation effort with our partners who made this possible,” said OHA Director Gretchen Bulova.

Interpretation signs will accompany the ships to explain both their sigificance and why the pond was chosen for storage.

Over two centuries ago, Alexandrians repurposed the merchant vessels in the creation of land along the Potomac. The land helped Alexandria thrive as an international port.

“These rare and unique artifacts represent Alexandria’s historic seaport,” said Eleanor Breen, a  city archaeologist. “We look forward to sharing the story of their discovery, excavation, and preservation with Alexandria residents and visitors in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and in many other ways.”

Since 2020, the Conservation Research Lab at Texas A&M University has scanned more than 1,000 timbers from the ships. These 3-D laser scans were used to produce physical and digital models of the ships, which will educate historians and the public. They will be on display on the first floor the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.) until June 5.

All are invited to SeeWorthy in the Park on Sunday, May 15 from noon to 4 p.m. During the event at Brenman Park (4800 Brenman Park Dr.), attendees will be able to ask archaeologists about the process of ship conservation. There will also be STEM activities for children, giving them the opportunity to learn about shoreline engineering, wood preservation, and forklift hydraulics. The event is free and weather permitting.

Preserving Alexandria’s Maritime History

Kevin Dauray

Kevin is Publisher's Assistant with The Zebra Press. He has been working for Alexandria's "Good News" newspaper since 2019. A graduate of George Mason University, he earned a bachelor's in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. He also studied at the Columbia School of Broadcasting and holds a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marymount University. He is an alumnus of T.C. Williams High School. Go Titans!

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