Trove of 18th-Century Liquor Bottles Found Underneath Fulton Street

By Irene Plagianos on August 7, 2013 6:35am 

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 18th Century Liquor Bottles Found in Downtown Excavation
18th Century Liquor Bottles Found in Downtown Excavation
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LOWER MANHATTAN — Manhattan has its own piece of drunk history.

Workers digging in the Financial District last week unearthed a trove of liquor bottles more than 200 years old — some still intact and corked — underneath a 15-foot stretch of Fulton Street at the corner of Titanic Park and Water Street.

Over two days, they uncovered more than one hundred 18th-century bottles of booze buried seven feet under ground, said Alyssa Loorya, an archaeologist whose firm Chrysalis Archaeology has been overseeing the Department of Design and Construction's excavation of the area to install new water mains.

“We were pretty amazed,” Loorya said. “We’ve found thousands of artifacts during the project, including liquor bottles, but never this many bottles all at once.”

Loorya said the bottles, which still need to be washed and examined, were likely from the late 18th century, and part of the landfill used to extend Fulton Street towards the East River. They haven't been able to make out any engraved names or labels on the bottles yet, she said.

“We know there were many taverns in the area at the time, to accommodate all the traveling sailors,” said Loorya. “These bottles were likely reused many times and filled with liquors like wine and rum.”

Some of the bottles are broken, Loorya said, but many are not only intact, they have their original corks. The original booze, however, is long gone. All the bottles were found empty.

The heap of bottles is just one of many interesting Downtown finds for Loorya, whose firm has been monitoring the DDC's Lower Manhattan utility upgrade project at various sites since 2009.

Last year, an excavation in front of 40 Fulton St. uncovered a Revolutionary War-era, 6-foot-long wall that was once part of a building that may have belonged to the Van Cortlandts or the Van Tienhovens, two influential early New York families who both owned property in the area.

Other discoveries include two wells and more than 5,000 artifacts from the turn of the 19th century, from a bone toothbrush to a copper half-penny.

Loorya, who's been working with her team on this Fulton and Water Street section for the past four months, has also unearthed hundreds of artifacts from the location, including an 18th-century shoe buckle, pieces of pottery and three Revolutionary War buttons worn by soldiers in a regiment that fought in the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn.

"This is essentially 18th-century garbage," said Loorya. "But you never know what you'll find right underneath your feet in this city."

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