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“Archaeological dig in NoMa?”

by Prince Of Petworth February 23, 2017 at 2:40 pm 26 Comments

noma dig

“Dear PoPville,

Developers started to dig up a parking lot in NoMa but have found brick outlines which are now being carefully sifted through. We’re all really curious to know what they might have found!”

Ed. Note: I asked former ANC Rep Tony Goodman about this and he says it’s the future FCC building at 45 and 55 L Street, NE.

Another reader with a different angle writes:

“it looks like there are old brick foundations/sidewalks beneath the parking lot they are digging up.”



  • PJL

    FYI, this isn’t the site for the FCC. FCC is going into the 2nd phase of Sentinel Square (fronting 1st St NE), which is seen to the right of the first picture and to the left in the last picture. The parking lot is going to be the 3rd phase of Sentinel Square, which doesn’t yet have a tenant.

    • Thank you!!

    • PJL

      GAHHHH. Scratch that and ignore everything I just said. Silly acronyms…the FEC is going in the second phase and the ANC Rep is obviously absolutely correct.

  • Anonymous

    This is pretty cool. I wonder how often developers run into this sort of thing while excavating, and how often these developers call in experts compared to just digging everything up as if they didn’t see anything. Are there any DC regulations requiring excavation to halt if something like this is discovered?

    • Adam on Hanover

      It’s not that uncommon. I have a friend who is an archaeology Ph.D. and worked for a time on exactly these kinds of sites.

    • Anon

      I believe these are the remnants of an old housing project adjacent to Sursum Corda (technically wasn’t Sursum Corda, but it’s often conflated as such) that was demolished after a 14yo was executed in the middle of the street on a Sunday afternoon. There’s nothing here worth excavating.

    • flieswithhoney

      It’s very common, especially when federal lands or funds are involved. Usually a survey is done by digging up and screening the dirt every so many yards. Source-my archaeologlist friends do this for a living.

    • TooMuchTuna

      Developers run into this all the time. While there are state-specific regulations as well, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to determine whether any of their activity will affect historic properties. Historic properties are defined as properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places of that meet any of the four criteria for being listed. The State Historic Preservation Office (or SHPO) will then do a review of the project to try to determine what impact there might be on the site.

      At this point the developers may bring in a cultural resource management firm, to conduct some archaeological testing. Such testing can be conducted in a variety of ways, but starts with Phase 1A testing (including background research on the site by looking at old maps and historical records), then may go to Phase 1B (including digging shovel test pits at set intervals to get a general sense if there are any artifacts or biofacts/ecofacts on site), then may go to Phase 2 (including more shovel test pits and typically some larger 1m x 1m excavations), and then finally it may go to Phase 3 where you do a large scale excavation (including trench excavations).

      Of course work in DC may be a bit different as my experiences only covered MS, AL, NY, NJ, CT, and abroad, but that’s the general idea.

  • JS

    Looks like that block used to be brick rowhouses back in the day–perhaps it’s those.

  • Ghengiz Ken

    Isn’t this where they are putting in the Cuesta Verde Estates?

    • mharding01

      Nice. :)

  • bdweller

    There is a controversy in Bethesda over a parking lot next to a church that apparently has a gravesite underneath it. There are plans to develop it into a larger parking garage and the church/members associated with the gravesite are fighting it, requesting an archeological assessment of the area.

  • bruno

    Fascinating. Recently read “Reveille in Washington,” about DC in the civil war. Makes me look at DC differently. So much went on here at that time that I was heretofore unaware of. Maybe this was a prison? They look like cells. Updates, please!

    • PJL

      Check out the links from Mapper above with the old plates from the early 1900s. They’re definitely the row houses that used to be there. ;)

  • DJFinance

    You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you?!

  • Anonymous

    Workers on-site believe these to be row houses from eighteenth century Russian & Irish immigrants. Artifacts & structure were found supporting that hypothesis. Would love to find out more about it, though.

    • Anonymous

      You sure you spoke to “on-site workers”? 18th Century would mean 1700s.


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