Archaeological Discoveries on the Waterfront

As redevelopment takes place along Alexandria's waterfront, archaeologists are exploring the properties undergoing development. Work is ongoing on the former site of Robinson Terminal South.

Page updated on Oct 30, 2018 at 6:48 PM

The implementation of the Alexandria Archaeological Protection Code is providing an opportunity for archaeologists to explore the 18th and 19th–century history of the City as development along the waterfront continues. Passed by City Council in 1989, the code requires developers to hire archaeological consultants to conduct investigations prior to construction on land with the potential to contain buried sites of historical significance. 

As waterfront development proceeds, Alexandria Archaeology will update this web page to provide photos and possible interpretations of the archaeological finds as they are unearthed on the waterfront projects. The excavations have the potential to elucidate many themes significant to the city’s history and to unearth evidence of early wharves and piers, derelict vessels, early industries, and commercial and domestic activities.

Excavations took place in 2015-2016 at the Hotel Indigo site at 220 S. Union Street. Ongoing work at Robinson Terminal South, at 2 Duke Street, began in 2017. 

Press Release

City of Alexandria Provides Updates on Historic Ship Discoveries at Robinson Landing

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2018

The City of Alexandria continues to support developer EYA, LLC, and its team of archaeologists and other experts in the research and excavation of three ships discovered at the Robinson Landing construction site on the Alexandria Waterfront in early 2018.

"We're learning so much from this incredibly unique site, where more than 100,000 artifacts have been found," said City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen. "Right now, we are working on the largest, most intact discovery so far -- a wooden sailing vessel made with trunnels [wooden pegs] and iron fasteners that held the ship's timbers together."

Archaeology at Robinson Terminal South

2 Duke Street

Work continues at Robinson Terminal South, and archaeologists have located the remains of three 18th century ships, as well as foundations of Hooe's 18th century warehouse and store and the 19th century Pioneer Mill.

Point Lumley, Robert Townshend Hooe’s stone warehouse, and Thomas Fleming’s 18th-century shipyard are part of the site’s maritime and mercantile heritage. The Pioneer Mill and a series of 20th-century factories and warehouses are part of the site’s industrial heritage. Check back for more updates as work progresses.

Updates on the ongoing work at this site (April 2017 - June 2018)

Excavation Highlights

Archaeology at the Hotel Indigo Site

220 N. Union Street

At this site, Archaeologists uncovered the remains of the hull of a fifty-foot vessel, as well as John Carlyle's 1755 public warehouse. Excavation took place in 2015-2016, and remains of this ship and warehouse are now undergoing conservation.

Updates on discoveries at this site (September 2015 - November 2017)

Excavation Highlights

Save Our Ship Conservation Fund

220 S Union Ship (13). Courtesy, Anna Frame.

The historic ship discovered on the Hotel Indigo Site in 2015 needs your help!  Early Alexandrians sunk this vessel on the Potomac mudflats over 200 years ago. Archaeologists unearthed the ship, temporarily saving it from destruction. We need your help to ensure the preservation of the fragile wood timbers for future generations to study and appreciate. 

Waterfront History

Learn more about the Historic Alexandria Waterfront, including earlier archaeological discoveries, waterfront history, and preservation planning.