The Right to Wharf Out: Contextualizing Early American Wharf Construction

Author(s): Molly McDonald

Year: 2020


This is an abstract from the session entitled "Urban Archaeology: Down by the Water" , at the 2020 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

Over a third of Lower Manhattan’s landmass is composed of fill contained within buried wharves, bulkheads, and other landfill retaining structures. Archaeological investigations have increasingly afforded opportunities to examine the construction methods used to build these early structures in New York City and elsewhere. This presentation reviews the classification system described in the presenter’s 2011 article in Historical Archaeology entitled “Wharves and Waterfront Retaining Structures as Vernacular Architecture.” In this context, it examines recently investigated examples, such as those found at the World Trade Center site. The presentation examines the carpentry traditions, joinery details, layout, and form of wood retaining structures. It takes a fresh look at the legal context of wharf construction and examines the profession of dock building. It emphasizes the importance of understanding these structures through the lens of vernacular architecture and explores how English, Dutch, and Scandinavian building traditions influenced approaches to wharf construction.

Cite this Record

The Right to Wharf Out: Contextualizing Early American Wharf Construction. Molly McDonald. 2020 ( tDAR id: 457585)

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Temporal Keywords
Ca. 1700- Ca. 1850

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 213