Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) – December 2016
The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc. (PAL) is providing cultural resources services in support of the Remediation Project. PAL’s work at the site was ongoing throughout 2016, and the following narrative and photographs provide a summary of their work completed to date to document the seawall removal, excavation, and reconstruction; and progress on the marine railways documentation and recordation.
Project contractors removed the historic granite wharf and adjacent soils in Solomon Jacobs Park during the fall of 2015 and winter of 2016. Excavations uncovered several components relating to historical gas manufacturing activities at the site. These consisted of large concrete footings, remnants of brick walls and foundations, and piping.
Below these more recent archaeological remains, the lower soils behind the wharf were composed of fill. Previous occupants of the site had dumped this material into the harbor as they “wharfed out” their property to create more usable land. Mixed into this fill were large amounts of granite rubble salvaged from Cape Anne’s many quarries, as well as isolated cultural artifacts such as shoes and broken bottles.
The Solomon Jacobs Park seawall was rebuilt in the winter and spring of 2016. The Project team designed and built a new wall that would be compatible with Gloucester Harbor’s historical character and meet stringent engineering requirements.
Project contractors completed pre-dredge debris removal in the near shore areas of the historic marine railway structures in September 2016. The debris removal was performed by commercial divers assisted by a barge-based large machine-excavator that was used to lift items rigged by the divers out of the water and into a hopper barge. PAL’s marine archaeologist from DSRA inspected and recorded historic marine railway elements and other debris that were found by the divers lying on or extending above the surface of the inner harbor floor. Marine railway elements include pieces of wood railway timbers and iron. Included among the recovered wood elements are intact and fragmentary pieces of the inactive marine railway’s rails, cross-ties, and chocking-timber components of the inactive marine railway’s cradle. The iron pieces are fragments and intact sections of the inactive marine railway’s iron strapping with fasteners that were formerly attached to the top of the railway’s wooden rails.
Dredging work to remove contaminated sediments and portions of the inactive marine railway extending to the 2004 Gloucester Harbor Commissioner’s Line began in November 2016. PAL’s marine archaeologist will continue with the field monitoring and recordation work for any components of the historic marine railways that are encountered and removed from the harbor floor during dredging.