On July 13th, 2010, mechanical excavators working adjacent to the south side of the 1967 World Trade Center foundations uncovered the remains of a watercraft buried 20 to 30-feet below street grade. Archaeologists from the Cultural Management Division of the Consulting firm AKRF, Inc. observed the uncovered timber and halted the excavators to further assess the discovery. Following an initial assessment, the New York State Historic Preservation Officer determined that the find was “significant” and directed archaeologists to form the appropriated team and excavate the site in a rapid, but controlled manner. The excavation yielded the remains of an almost completely iron fastened watercraft, approximately 30-foot-long by 15-foot-wide, and thousands of small artifacts, some directly associated with the use of the watercraft, and the rest relating the post-Colonial to late Federalist Periods of New York City.

After in situ documentation, which included three-dimensional scanning, the watercraft structure was disassembled, and the component parts wrapped and shipped to the Maryland Archaeology Conservation Laboratory, St. Leonard, MD for wet storage, further documentation and assessment.  In April 2011, the timbers from the 2010 excavation were transferred to the Texas A&M University (TAMU), Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL) for long-term wet storage, which gave the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) sufficient time to decide the best way to mitigate the find. The collection of timbers received in April, which constitute the after half of the structure, was increased in August of that year when a brief excavation was undertaken by Michael Pappalardo of AKRF, Inc. uncovered a small section of the remaining bow on the opposite side of the 10-foot retaining wall that had split the structure in two.

After determining the best place to exhibit the find would be the New York State Museum in Albany, the Lower Manhattan Development Board of Directors moved forward with the project in January 2015. Since the recommended mitigation plan had to adhere to the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470) Section 106 review hearings were scheduled, and with no negative comment from interested parties, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp, decided to move to fund the project following the recommendations outlined in the mitigation plan. In the five years (2011-2016), since receipt of the disarticulated artifact, the timbers remained immersed in an aqueous solution with bio-controls to maintain the level of preservation and prepare for the eventuality of stabilizing the timbers for reconstruction of the hull remains.

Conservation Stages

Stage 1: Documentation
Stage 2: Mechanical Cleaning
Stage 3: Chemical Chelation
Stage 4: Bulking
Stage 5: Freeze Drying
Stage 6: Final cleaning and assembly

Support

Monetary donations and volunteer workers are vital to the ongoing success of the Conservation Research Laboratory. If you would like to volunteer your time and expertise, please contact us here. If you would like to become one of our donors, please click the link below and direct your gift to: Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation.