AUTHOR’S NOTE: THE GOVERTHING EXCAVATION IS NOW CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
Today, I finally got on the ferry and went out to Governors Island. For you non-New Yorkers, Governors Island is an island located just south of Manhattan and was once used as a military base. An entire complex of buildings, including forts, churches, and army barracks, still remains in excellent condition on the island. Off limits for years, the island has recently been opened up to the public, with free ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn. I can’t recommend it enough: wander the grounds, have a picnic, bike the perimeter, and take in some beautiful views of southern Manhattan.
Though there’s a lot to write about, I wanted to focus on something that was simply too amazing to believe: an archaeological dig currently in the process of unearthing an entire town buried beneath Governors Island.
Since January, Belgian archaeologists have been working strenuously to excavate the ruins of a former Governors Island hamlet called Goverthing (a bastardization of a Dutch word). With a 400 year history dating back to Manhattan’s first settlements, the hamlet was the last civilian colony on Governors Island by the 1950′s. In 1954, the town was forcibly evacuated by the city of New York, who had deemed it a safety hazard for a variety of reasons, and effectively had it condemned. As demolition was not an option at the time, the hamlet was simply buried under tens of feet of soil and forgotten.
The town was recently rediscovered accidentally by contractors conducting demolition work on the site to build a park, which has since been canceled in favor of a full excavation of Goverthing. A tour costs $5, and I definitely recommend seeing the incredible work they’ve done in person. The site is only open through October 11, after which it will be closed for further excavation work.
As you first walk in, you’ll first see the top of the town’s former water tower sticking out of the dirt:
Incredibly, the well beneath it still runs to this day. For this public exhibit, the excavators have attached a make-shift pump to draw water up – and it works! You can try it when you visit and see a stream of water pouring out:
As you walk along, you’ll see the tops of rusted power line towers poking up from the ground, cables still attached:
One can only imagine how deep into the ground they must go:
The centerpiece of the excavation site is the town church (note the chimneys of what are most likely former residences in the foreground):
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