Whenever the MTA starts digging out subway infrastructure around Lower Manhattan, they seem to unearth history as well. Contractors wound up excavating a 350-year-old wall during construction of the new South Ferry terminal, and as work at the Fulton St. Transit Hub has continued, New York history has emerged in the process.
Near the corner of Fulton St. and Pearl St. on what was once primo riverfront property on the East River, crews recently unearthed a well on land owned in the late 1600s by Stephanus van Cortlandt. Andy Newman of The Times has more on this historic find. The wall, he said, was five feet wide and around four feet deep. The water wasn’t potable though, and archaeologists believe it was for “early-industrial use.” Alyssa Loorya said, “Any work or jobs you would do around the property. Washing, cooling. Anything that we could use gray water for, they could have used gray water.”
Within the well, excavators uncovered a ceramic bird from the early 18th century as well as a variety of other fragments from the era. City officials hope to put these on display in the lobby of the Department of Design and Construction in Queens. Meanwhile, city historians are intrigued by the historic well. “Everything you find,” Loorya said, “adds to the knowledge of material culture and lifeways of colonial New York.”