In May 2016, a Boston building dig sight was dramatically shut down. Not because a worker was injured or they had violated some kind of permit, but because they had uncovered something that had been hidden under the muck for more than 150 years.
During a routine excavation, construction crews found an artifact from the days of old. The find was so rare it sent the residents of Boston chittering around from excitement.
The discovery made in the city’s prestigious Seaport District was enough to shut down the billion-dollar project. While other builders were busy putting up upscale condos, fancy eateries, and large towers of office buildings, the crew on this project had called in the local archeologists and historians to verify their amazing find.
The old boat they found buried under their dig site had potential to be historically priceless…
While the company hired to conduct the construction project, Skanska, is no stranger to large-scale projects, finding a piece of history was new for them.
The construction company, which has projects that span the globe and include the World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the MetLife Stadium, has produced recognizable buildings in many countries.
But after finding the boat under their site, Skanska paused on their 17-story office building that would have 400,000 square feet of space. And the building would all be in walking distance to the piers in Seaport District. It was a project Skanska would earn a lot of money from – but history took precedence in this case.
The shipwreck from the 19th century was a special find. But according to national and state preservation laws, Skanska was not required to halt construction. However, they knew better than to rip apart a vital piece of New England history.
For a whole week, the construction company halted their project, so a team of archaeologists could get in there and remove it if possible.
“You certainly come across a lot of interesting things when you do below-grade excavation, but I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” Shawn Hurley, a Skanska executive, told WBZ-TV.
Hurley and his team called local archaeologists to investigate the shipwreck.
“We were extremely fortunate that they saw the importance of the shipwreck,” Joe Bagley, one of five archaeologists entrusted with investigating the site, told Boston.com. “We’re very happy to have the opportunity to document it.”
After a preliminary investigation, Bagley and his team decided that the shipwreck remains were too delicate to move.
Without an opportunity to take it to a museum, the archaeologists had to race against the clock to learn everything they could about it before Skanska resumed construction and ripped it to shreds.
Researchers documented the 50-foot-long ship. They used stereoscopic cameras and dug trenches to get a better look at the hull and insides.
The team performed a 3D scan and produced an image of how the ship would have looked back in the 1800s. That image, along with a few artifacts found inside the boat, will likely be put on display in the new Skanska office buildings.