In the shadow of the Red Hook Grain Terminal along the mouth of Gowanus Bay, a shipping container holds reminders of this neighborhood's rich industrial past, including parts of pulleys and wheels, mooring and track switches. The growing collection of artifacts was retrieved from the bottom of the Gowanus Canal.
"One of the coolest items I think is an anchor, a fisherman's anchor circa 1830's,” says Linda Mariano, who overseeing the archaeological component of the cleanup with the Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group.
The artifacts are a surprising byproduct of the polluted canal's cleanup under the federal Superfund program. As the relics are discovered, they are brought to the surface, decontaminated and stored.
"It is metal. I would say it's a teapot or coffee pot. And it survived in the canal,” Mariano says as she inspects the object.
More than two hundred objects have been recovered since the archaeological work began 18 months ago. Some are waiting to be transferred to the storage space. Wooden objects and orange and blue spools of yarn, from a company that operated between1918 and 1930, couldn't be de-contaminated and were discarded. But many bricks have been salvaged and cleaned and are now part of a stack reaching ever higher.
“They are building blocks. I mean it's the way row houses were made, out of bricks. It's quite a statment I think about what was and what still is," Mariano says.
With gentrification and re-development pulling this community away from its gritty, industrial roots, Mariano hopes the salvaged items can be permanently exhibited, perhaps at a museum as a reminder of what once was.
"We can read all about Gowanus. But it's different, there's another element when you can see and feel the real, authentic objects that were once here. The items have been verified, authenticated, dated, researched and cleaned. And we have the reports which could also be part of the museum,” says Mariano.
Mariano says she'll be also teaming up with the Brooklyn Historical Society to help document items found at the Gowanus Canal.