Robinson Terminal South Excavation Update: Foundations, Bulkhead and Bakery

The excavations at Robinson Terminal South continue in July 2017, as archaeologists from Thunderbird complete the data recovery of features in the northwest section of the site (at the intersection of Duke and South Union).

Page archived as of March 9, 2019

Note: The information on this page reflects the state of knowledge when this update was written. Information may have changed. 

Foundations, Bulkhead and Bakery

July 2017

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 1Excavations were completed on two largely intact stone foundation dwellings, a circular brick foundation, a partial stone and brick foundation at the corner of Duke and South Union, and an adjacent brick foundation structure. The foundations of the structures along South Union have been excavated and dismantled and the area has been filled back in to prepare for the construction of town-homes.  


Dwelling at the Corner of Duke and South Union

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 2According to documentary research done by Thunderbird, this dwelling originally stood on town Lot 77, purchased by Nathaniel Chapman in 1749. Eventually, the lot was subdivided and Lot 1, where the dwelling stood, was purchased by Captain George Slacum in 1794. By 1810, at least three buildings stood in Slacum’s lot, one of which was occupied by a shoemaker named John Wood – this building is in the approximate location of the stone and brick foundation structure identified by Thunderbird archaeologists. The foundation measured approximately 15 by 20 feet and contained multiple fill episodes. The photo shows the feature before it was excavated, facing east towards 2 Duke Street. (Photo courtesy of Thunderbird Archaeology.) 


Hooe’s Warehouse

Excavation of Hooe’s warehouse is nearing completion, as well. This is the massive stone foundation, built in 1782/1783, that was impacted by the construction of 2 Duke Street, the brick building that still stands on the site. What remains is an approximately 70 foot long by 13 foot wide stone (schist) and mortar foundation separated into two bays. The warehouse was originally 44 feet wide, according to a Mutual Assurance Society fire insurance policy taken out by Robert Hooe in 1796. This image shows the surviving floor boards and wood-lined drain that directed water inside the walls and beneath the floor. The next photo depicts the difficulties early Alexandrians faced in constructing a large and deep building like the warehouse on the tidal flats of Point Lumley. Stone masons built the warehouse foundation on a wooden board for stability and to provide a level surface for construction. (Photos courtesy of Thunderbird Archaeology.) 

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 3 Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 4


Post Bulkhead / Crib Complex

A feature complex made of up at least 15 posts and a surviving section of horizontal wood planking indicates the extensive earth-moving activities that Alexandrians undertook around the original ground of Point Lumley. These large wooden boxes filled with dirt appear to have been relatively shallow and may have filled in tidal flats located just on the boundary between Point Lumley land and the Potomac River. 


Foundations along Duke Street

Work is now concentrating on the surviving remains of structures along Duke Street, which appear to date to the 19th century, and a brick foundation building with an interior partition wall that may have fronted an alley south of and partly parallel to Duke Street. These structures are in close proximity to two features discovered in May and originally thought to be burials.

According to preliminary documentary research, the portion of the property containing these foundations and associated lots was public land. Three lots sat between Lot 77 (in the northwest corner of the site) and Hooe’s warehouse, on land leased by the town trustees. The lots were primarily leased to members of the Campbell family from the early 1800s through at least 1830 who in turn subleased the land to whites and free black households. The Campbells did not reside on the property, though one briefly might have had a shop on Duke Street. By the 1850s, James Green was leasing the much of the property in the area. The land appears to have been open space during this period through the Civil War and became a lumber yard in the 1870s.  

The red dotted lines show the general location of structures that once occupied the lots between Hooe’s warehouse (to the east) and original town Lot 77 (to the west).  

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 5

This photo focuses on the building to the south. A brick hearth is visible in the foreground and another brick hearth sits in the other room of the building. (Photo courtesy of Thunderbird Archaeology.)     

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 6


Features Originally Interpreted as Burials

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources approved the permit for the excavation of two human burials discovered in May at Robinson Terminal South. The excavation will be conducted by archaeologists from Thunderbird and Dr. Dana Kollmann of Towson University in Maryland. All skeletal remains will be transported to the Archaeology and Forensic Science Laboratory at Towson where they will be temporarily stored and undergo examination and analysis. The results of this analysis, presented in a technical report, will inform the reburial plan.   

Update: In September, Thunderbird Archaeology completed the excavation of two features originally interpreted as burials. Their study reveals that there is no definitive evidence that the features were in fact burials.


Bakery

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 7 Archaeological work is just beginning to move south, towards Wolfe Street. In and among the foundations of a newly discovered stone dwelling, archaeologists uncovered this fascinating artifact – a dense, tough historic cracker called hardtack, a military staple during the Civil War that was also a foodstuff on long ship voyages. (Photo courtesy of Thunderbird Archaeology.) 

Thunderbird Archaeology’s documentary research revealed that the nearby structures included a bakehouse. After her husband’s James Kirk’s death, Bridget Kirk (shipbuilder Thomas Fleming’s daughter) advertised the bakehouse in 1786 and Anderson and Jamieson Company leased it the following year: “Andrew Jamieson and Company…beg leave to inform the public that they will continue the biscuit-baking business, under the name of Anderson and Jamieson. They have for sale, all sorts of ship bread, and fine small bread, at Mrs. Kirk’s bake-house, near the distillery, also at their bake-house, opposite the [illegible] Office” [Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser April 26, 1787]. James Kirk was a prominent wheat merchant and later Mayor of Alexandria. 

When Anderson and Jamieson Company dissolved in January 1791, Kirk leased directly to Andrew Jamieson until 1802.  The lease called for the renovations and improvements on the existing bakehouse and related facilities, including: “…repairing the Bake house and Ovens, and building an half story over the Ovens, and finishing the Tenement contiguous to the said Bake-house, and building thereto a Shed Kitchen…” [Alexandria Deed Book D: 414].

Archaeologists have recently exposed and are evaluating the features that may be associated with the bakehouse and other structures.  


What’s Next

Robinson Terminal South: July 2017 Update 8 Over the coming days, excavation will expand to the southwestern portion of the block with another round of archaeological trenching. Thunderbird archaeologists will assess this area for features and foundations that will be impacted by a parking garage and additional town-homes.

This final image shows two members of the Thunderbird Archaeology field crew documenting the layers of soil within one of the buildings. They carefully record soil color and texture – information like this and catalogues of the artifacts discovered will be published in a final site report.

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