WASHINGTON, DC—On July 15, 2010, a recently discovered piece of engineering history—a 40-ft. portion of the 111-year-old Hudson River Bulkhead—was removed to allow for the construction of a pedestrian underpass connecting a new transportation hub at the World Trade Center with the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan. With help from The Louis Berger Group’s archaeologists, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey excavated the bulkhead’s granite wall from beneath the soil surrounding the World Trade Center one week earlier, exposing it for the first time since the early 20th century.

In post-Civil War America, and until the 1940s, the Hudson River Bulkhead protected New York City’s waterfront from natural deterioration, but it also marked Lower Manhattan’s edge and served as a symbol of the city’s commercial prominence to arriving ships.

LBG experts will continue to document the bulkhead before its removal and provide archaeological monitoring services to the PANYNJ through the second half of 2010 as excavation for the pedestrian passageway advances and the remaining segments of the bulkhead are exposed. The company is also providing program management, planning and environmental support to the redevelopment effort at the World Trade Center site.

“We just scratched the surface with this first excavation,” said Zachary J. Davis, a principal archaeologist with LBG. Davis estimates that the granite wall stretches another 30 feet long and 45 feet deep, but the full extent of the bulkhead will not be known until all excavations and studies are completed.

The bulkhead, which extends five miles from Battery Park to West 59th Street, was designed by George B. McClellan, a Civil War general who became the first engineer-in-chief of New York City’s Department of Docks. “The Hudson River Bulkhead was constructed between 1890 and 1899 as part of the reconstruction of New York City’s waterfront,” Davis said. “Not only does the bulkhead hold historic significance for the city of New York, but it was also the first and largest such effort in the United States at the time it was built.”

Before excavating the bulkhead from the soil surrounding the World Trade Center, LBG worked with the PANYNJ to review the design of the pedestrian underpass to ensure it met all specifications and requirements of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and to identify, minimize and mitigate any adverse effects to the site’s historic elements.

LBG archaeologists, knowing that the bulkhead is eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, expect to learn many more details about the bulkhead’s construction through its continued excavation. 

About The Louis Berger Group 
The Louis Berger Group, Inc., is an internationally recognized consulting firm that provides engineering, architecture, program and construction management, environmental planning and science, and economic development services. We are a devoted and trusted partner to federal, state, and local government agencies; multilateral institutions; and commercial industry. To this diverse client base we bring strategic vision and an entrepreneurial spirit, developing innovative solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems. With a resource base of more than 5,000 professionals and affiliate employees in more than 90 countries, we are able to respond to local conditions while providing clients with the technical resources and rapid response capabilities of a leading global organization.