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Historical Find Won’t Delay Dresser Bridge Project

Mon February 13, 2006 - Southeast Edition
CEG



Hand-wrought nails, stemmed glassware and ceramics dating back to 1750 to 1780 are among items discovered by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) archaeologists as part of a routine archaeological investigation of the area where the replacement of the Judith Stewart Dresser Memorial Bridge will be constructed over the Chickahominy River later this year. Archaeologists are excavating this site, which may provide new insights to 18th-century life in Colonial America.

Preliminary results suggest the site is associated with the Barrett family plantation circa 1750. Structural components from the home were unearthed as well as late colonial houseware. The site is along the east bank of the Chickahominy River within the Chickahominy Riverfront Park in James City County.

“The site has excellent potential to yield information on themes and questions related to the history of James City County and the surrounding region,” said John Wells, preservation program manager of VDOT’s Richmond District. VDOT archaeologists and consultant, The Louis Berger Group Inc., are currently completing the large-scale excavation for VDOT’s Cultural Preservation Program. The excavation includes photographing and documenting the artifacts, which will then be sent for curation to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Richmond.

The data recovery program will focus on the structure and evolution of the domestic house lot; the local availability and popularity of commodities, material culture fashions and technological innovations from the Colonial, Early National and Antebellum periods; and changing consumer behavior and its relationship to social class and ethnicity and gender-based activities and use of space.

VDOT’s Cultural Preservation Program regularly conducts field studies of proposed highway construction projects to identify historic properties such as archaeological sites, buildings and other structures, old cemeteries and battlefields. Agency archaeologists and architectural historians review plans for new construction and highway maintenance to ensure that effects on properties of cultural and historical significance are avoided or minimized.

VDOT is expected to begin construction of the new Judith Stewart Dresser Memorial Bridge in late fall 2006 with estimated completion in late 2008.

Project Manager Emily Peter said the archeological discovery will not change the scope of the project, nor will it push back the contract letting date, set for Aug. 8.

She said historical artifacts are a common part of construction work in Virginia. Just a short jump away from Williamsburg, the “whole area is historically rich.”

Most of the time, artifacts on a job site are mitigated prior to a contractor coming aboard, but things tend to crop up once deep excavation begins.

At the Route 5 bridge project, Peter said crews will be bringing in fill and will only go deep when driving piles.

For more information, visit www.VirginiaDOT.org. CEG