The (not-so-big) dig

The Brooklyn Paper
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The promise of construction of the Brooklyn Bridge Park development along the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights waterfront may be a symbol of a glorious future for the borough — but it has also revealed a scintillating symbol of Brooklyn’s glorious past.

Workers who have begun prepping Pier 1 to become a large sweeping front lawn for the hotel, condo and open-space development have unearthed a 19th-century flour mill that operated when a thriving, independent Brooklyn was the region’s bread basket.

Indeed, uncovering the former Jewell Brothers’ mill, which stood from 1830s until 1910 at the foot of what was then called Fulton Street, but is now Old Fulton Street, is a metaphor for Brooklyn’s decline.

“The Brooklyn Bridge was built and the city of Brooklyn became much more of a commuter town,” said Alyssa Loorya, an outside archeologist hired by the state to investigate and catalogue the brick-and-wood mill.

Construction projects in the city frequently reveal fragments of forgotten New York, but compared to the mother lodes at the African Burial Ground or South Ferry station digs in lower Manhattan, the pit on Pier 1 yielded modest artifacts.

The dig measured roughly 30 by 10 feet and. In addition to the mill’s charred foundation, which bore the mark of a ruinous fire, the area yielded minor artifacts like bottles of beer and patent medicine as well as pieces of pottery.

The crater, which was sealed off to the public after a guided tour earlier this month, will soon be covered over as park construction truly gets underway. Though covered, the mill ruins will be preserved, Loorya said, in case future archeologists want to dig it up again someday.

Though focused on getting construction of her open space underway, Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, the state agency charged with building the 85-acre development, said she enjoyed a look back into history.

“It shows the foundations of our city’s past,” marveled. “Furman Street was lined with warehouses that stored the goods that came into the port.”

Updated 5:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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