NEWBURYPORT — A vital link to the city's maritime history was loaded into the back of a Subaru crossover wagon yesterday morning bound for Maryland, where it will be restored over the next 18 months before it comes back home.
The roughly 150-pound piece of timber, found during construction of the city's new sewage treatment plant extension on Water Street at the end of Lime Street, was once part of the Bartlet Wharf pier and dates to the 1760s, local historian Bill Harris said.
In October, workers found the remains of what is believed to be parts of the Bartlet Wharf as well as Coombs Wharf. Those wharves, and others nearby, served as the backbone of the city's thriving shipping and shipbuilding industry during the 18th century. Many of the wharves from that time period have rotted away while others, like the Coombs and Bartlet, were covered with fill as the contours of the waterfront evolved over the years.
The pier fragment, roughly the size of an adult person, is heading to the Maryland Archeological and Conservation Laboratory in St. Leonard, Md., where it will be under the care of restorer Caitlin Schaffer.
Schaffer said it was exciting to be driving home with a piece of Newburyport's maritime history in the back of her Subaru.
"It's pretty cool," she said.
For weeks, the pier piece was stored in the back of a red pickup truck owned by Tom Kolterjahn, vice president of the Newburyport Historical Commission. Covered in plastic wrap and secured with duct tape, the pier piece was later covered with several feet of snow to further protect it from open air.
Kolterjahn said should the piece come in contact with open air, it would turn to a pile of mush within a few months due to its age and its time spent underground.