Large Timbers Found

Large timbers were found and recorded beneath the nineteenth century layer during the last two days of excavations. Located at and below the water table, all but the upper surfaces of the timbers were intact. The working interpretation is that the timbers were part of cribbing placed to fill a marshy or intertidal area. Found in the sediments associated with the timbers were ceramics dating from the late seventeenth to the eighteenth century, brick fragments, nails, and tobacco pipe stems and bowls. Our hope is that ongoing analysis or artifacts and archeological features will support and refine our preliminary interpretations.

A Deposit of Woodworking Waste

The layer of wood discovered Monday proved to be a deposit of woodworking waste. Within the deposit were pieces of wood that were sawn or shaped with an axe or hatchet, and waste from use of a chisel and a draw knife. Eighteenth century artifacts were contained within the deposit, that taken together suggest the waste came from a work area, rather than a household.

Work Continues

JMA archeologists continued test excavations and expanded by 30 feet the trench containing the nineteenth century foundation remains. Earlier deposits, preliminarily dating to the eighteenth century, were found beneath the floor of the nineteenth century remains. Expansion of the trench led to the discovery of three additional foundation walls likely dating to the nineteenth century, and an additional wall of an earlier date. Also found were large remnants of wood, some with embedded wrought nails. Excavations continue tomorrow to determine if the wood remains are a trash or demolition deposit, or a decayed part of a structure.

Another public tour added!

We’re so excited that so many people have been interested in the West Shipyard Study and want to visit the site. We’ve added another public tour on Tuesday, July 24, from 5-7pm. We hope to see you there!

The public has also been invited by the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides to attend a tour of the site the group has scheduled on Thursday, July 26, at 10am.

Visiting the Dig

Visitors came to the DRWC’s Vine Street Lot today to view the excavations. Archeologist Wade Catts gave visitors information on the history of use of the lot, and described what has been found during the current excavations. The public is welcome to visit the site Thursday from 10 to 12, Friday from 1 to 3.

Foundation of a 19th Century Structure Found

Over the last two days archeologists continued exploration of the first trench for the eighteenth century bulkhaed, and excavated two additional trenches along the south end of the lot. The bulkhead was not refound. However, the foundation and floor of what is believed to be an apartment building that stood on the south end of the lot in later part of the nineteenth century were found in the two additional trenches.

The remains of a nineteenth century building foundation at the southwest corner of the lot. The structure was shown in an 1885 bird eye view of Philadelphia. This is a detail of the image.




Archaeologists Peter Leach and Liz LaVigne clean the trench, revealing a floor composed of a wooden frame and compacted soils.
An glass bottle fell out of the wall of pit while the digging was happening


Excavations Begin

Excavations began today at DRWC’s Vine Street Lot, site of the West Shipyard. A trench was opened to examine an eighteenth century bulkhead first uncovered during excavations in the 1980s. The bulkhead was refound at six feet below the ground surface. Because of high water, it was only partially revealed. The location will be explored further Tuesday morning when the tide will be out.

Hidden Philadelphia Covers the West Shipyard



Harry Kyriakodis, a historian of the Philadelphia waterfront and member of the Oliver Evans Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology, gave an overview of the West Shipyard Project on Hidden Philadelphia. See the post at:

Thanks Harry!

The report on earlier work at the site can be found on the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum Website: