The tear down phase of the demolition of the Robinson Terminal South (S. Union, Duke, Wolfe) is complete.
Below is a set of photos I took of the job over the course of the last four to five weeks. As seen in the final photo, the brick office building (2 Duke Street) is being kept and will see adaptive re-use. The unfinished new building seen in that same shot is the Indigo Hotel at the corner of Duke and S. Union.
After the rubble is finished, Alexandria archaeologists and others will step in and begin their investigative digs. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. As we saw across Duke Street with the discovery of an 18th-century ship hull where the Indigo Hotel now rises, the results can be quite remarkable.
Alexandria has certainly seen big digs before. The biggest was the Urban Renewal of King Street, which took place in the late 60s, and turned the heart of Old Town into a laboratory for the archaeologists.
This one at the foot of Duke and Wolfe will certainly not be as extensive as that one, but in this case, the warehouse filled the entire block. Except for the rare occasion when the public was invited to help greet a disembarking set of VIPs or guests from other nations, this block has been off limits since the 1940s. The new residential will once again block views but not in the same full way as the eye-sore terminal. There will be pedestrians paths through them and the waterside promenade.
In his definitive history of the waterfront (“Maritime Alexandria, The Rise and Fall of an American Entrepot”), Donald Shomette describes the demise of maritime Alexandria. The construction of the two Robinson Terminals in the 1940s (mostly big paper rolls for The Washington Post) kept a piece of the hey days alive, but by then, the waterfront had become a “forgotten relic of the past.”
Now, as we search for relics of that past, a new chapter unfolds on the waterfront. The activity we see and hear taking place there signals that new beginning.