Proposed Approval of Archeological Investigation for Summer 2020

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The National Park Service (NPS) invites review of and comment on its proposed finding of No Historic Properties Adversely Affected for an undertaking planned by the George Washington Foundation, owner of the 75-acre George Washington's Boyhood Home National Historic Landmark ("Ferry Farm"): an archeological investigation/excavation of part of a 15' x 30' area in the SE corner of the Washington Farm workyard. The NPS reviews their request for approval of the archeological investigation under the terms of the conservation easement that it holds for Ferry Farm.

The easement allows the Foundation to propose such investigations to the NPS for review and approval, work that would occur under the direction of a qualified, NPS-approved professional archeologist. The easement stipulates Ferry Farm's use as historic site and education attraction; the Foundation manages interpretive historical structures and facilities there. The easement's provisions include pp. 44734-44737, Archeology and Historic Preservation; Secretary of Interior's Standards (1983), stipulating that archeological documentation, including "observation, directly, through excavation," may be "undertaken as an aid to various treatment activities, including research, interpretation, reconstruction." The research design includes the goal of developing a better understanding and interpretation of the spatial use of the landscape over the thousands of years of human occupation at Ferry Farm. As per that research design and also the Preferred Alternative for treatment of the overall property, selected through an NPS-coordinated Environmental Assessment public review in 2013-2014 and including research on and creation of an interpretive landscape with missing Washington-era landscape features and structures, the 2020 investigation would also include seeking evidence of that era's structures and work spaces. Approved investigations, the easement continues, "shall be documented and reported." The easement also describes the right of the NPS to protect in perpetuity the natural, cultural, archeological, ecological, open space and aesthetic features of Ferry Farm, and describes the restrictions of the easement as intended to prevent uses, which if allowed to occur, would have an individual or cumulative adverse effect.

As the archeological investigation is planned by the George Washington Foundation, and would be implemented by them, the federal undertaking under review is the NPS's proposed No Historic Properties Adversely Affected finding, and thus its proposed approval of the investigation.

For detailed description by the Foundation of its proposed archeological investigation, including general location-map; detailed location-map of areas, within the 15' x 30' investigation-zone, to be excavated and to be left unexcavated; delineation of Area of Potential Effect; site photos; full research design; protocols for unexpected, inadvertent discoveries and for avoiding any human burials and remains; excavation strategy; and curation/cataloging, see "Document List" link at upper left on this webpage (then click on the document itself) for "ScopeofWork 2020 Archeological Investigation GeorgeWashingtonBoyhoodHome." Comment may be offered by clicking on the document.

This review combines (the combination occurring with the approval of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources) the Section 106/National Historic Preservation Act steps of Initiation of Consultation, Identification of Historic Properties, and Assessment of Effects.

Identification of Historic Properties: Ferry Farm is a National Historic Landmark, a collection of archeological sites (including Virginia 44ST174), and a cultural landscape.

Proposed NPS Determination of No Historic Properties Adversely Affected: There would be no adverse landscape/visual effects due to the temporary (three-month) nature of the proposed archeological investigation, and its screening from adjoining interpretive areas by the wattle- and plank fencing surrounding the 100' x 100' yard in which it would be situated. Additionally, the NPS Regional Archeologist has reviewed the attached Scope of Work and recommends that the George Washington Foundation "has proposed an excavation methodology in line with past years of previous excavation. They are proposing to leave intact, or mostly intact, features and stratigraphy. Ferry Farm [the Foundation] should be allowed to continue their summer excavations, as allowed under the Easement with NPS, and in line with the conditions and stipulations outlined in the previous Programmatic Agreement, while a new Programmatic Agreement is being written."

Contact Information

Noel Harrison