HISTORIC FIND: Centuries-old ship discovered at Old Town Alexandria hotel construction site

FOX 5's Tom Fitzgerald reports.

- A historic find in Old Town Alexandria is turning heads. The construction of a new hotel has uncovered a sailing ship that is believed to date back to the Revolutionary War.

Archaeologists are now working to identify exactly what they have found and locals are coming face-to-face with their city's history.

Francine Bromberg has been the archaeologist in Alexandria for a quarter century. You can say it was a pretty good day for her when she got the call that a 250-year-old sailing ship had just been dug up in her city.

"A remarkable archaeological dream basically,” she said.

The Revolutionary War-era ship was unearthed as this site was being cleared for a new hotel. It turns out that this area used to be in the Potomac River before it was backfilled two centuries ago to expand Alexandria's waterfront.

"We know that this ship was put in place sometime between 1775 and 1798,” said Bromberg.

But who owned it? What did it carry? Who sailed on it? For now, that remains a mystery.

However, there are some things we know about it. Not only is this ship historic, it has also become a bit of a celebrity. As soon as the fences were opened up to let people get a peek at the old ship, big crowds showed up.

"I think it's great,” said one person. “It's like a great window into the past.”

"It makes you wonder what else is hidden and underneath our ground here,” said another resident.

What is next for this 18th century ship? A 21st century water tank will be used to stabilize the wood. That will also give experts like Bromberg more time to solve the mystery of Alexandria's newest piece of history.

There is a little historical irony going on here. There is a big debate here in Alexandria over the waterfront and it even cost the last mayor his reelection.

Some development opponents are not happy about this hotel, but this discovery might not have been found without the hotel’s construction. In fact, the ship might not have been buried here at all if Alexandria’s founders had not decided to develop this waterfront themselves 200 years ago.

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