City of Alexandria, VA
Estelle and Ben Brenman at the
Alexandria Canal Tidelock Party
Bernard (Ben) Brenman Award for Archaeology
The Alexandria Archaeology Commission periodically gives the Brenman Award to individuals and groups who have demonstrated high quality work, innovation, commitment, or extraordinary efforts in preservation, research, protection, enhancement, creation of historic parks and open spaces, documentation, education, public appreciation, and advocacy in relation to the archaeology of historic Alexandria. The award is named after Ben Brenman, former chairman of the Commission, to recognize his achievements in visualizing and creating a community archaeology program in which sites are protected as resources, historic parks are created as part of the modern urban landscape, and a heritage trail was designated where people can discover and appreciate thousands of years of Alexandria's past across the entire city.
The Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden: Outstanding Community Research: Alexandria's only privately held historic house museum and the only remaining Lee family property open to the public. In 2010 the Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden applied for and was awarded a federal Save America's Treasure Grant to conduct archaeological investigations prior to new landscaping. The Louis Berger Group was hired to conduct these archaeological investigations. The excavations and interpretations have contributed a wealth of information on 18th century domestic and landscape customs, opening a new window to Alexandria's dynamic past.
William F. Smith: Outstanding Historian: for his historic Alexandria photograph collection he started as a young man and continued for a half century. Bill has always been more than generous in loaning Alexandria Archaeology photos of various places undergoing excavation and allowing them to be used for exhibition and publication. He donated his entire photographic collection to the Alexandria Library where anyone can use them. Bill also published many photographs and co-authored A Seaport Saga; Portrait of Old Alexandria, Virginia, which continues to be one of the best publications of the City’s history and includes annotated text by Mike Miller; and
Michael Johnson: Outstanding Professional Archaeologist: who was the Fairfax County Archaeologist for 32 years and has been a longtime supporter of archaeology in Alexandria. Mike has expanded the knowledge of Northern Virginia’s past by finding and studying thousands of archaeological sites. He has been a continual and enthusiastic supporter of archaeology in Alexandria through American Indian artifact identification, including the oldest object found to date – a 13,000 year old Clovis spear point, excavated at Freedmen’s Cemetery.
The Fort Ward History Group: Outstanding Community Research: The Group was selected for the Outstanding Community Research effort of its individual members and as a collective group in conducting research on history of Fort Ward, most specifically on “The Fort,” an African American community. Many people have visited a variety of archives, identified little-known school and voting records, transcribed on-line documents and interviewed long-time residents in order to produce a repository of historical information on the occupants of The Fort and the Seminary area. The Group has met monthly for two years to share information, question the origins of The Fort and formulate additional lines of research. The knowledge acquired by the Group’s members has greatly aided in the archaeological study and preservation of Fort Ward, as well as a fuller interpretation of the park as a significant African American historic place.
Martha Williams: Outstanding Professional Archaeologist: Ms. Williams was chosen as Outstanding Professional Archaeologist for her nearly 40 years of outstanding teaching, historical research and archaeological investigations in and near Alexandria. Ms. Williams began as a teacher before becoming a professional archaeologist. She has been a long-time archaeologist with Christopher Goodwin and Associates and has completed a number of excellent investigations and reports. As part of these publications, Ms. Williams has written several histories of important places and people in Alexandria, including Cameron Mills, Cameron Farm, the West family and Colross. One of her most important reports gives the context for appreciating the Bloxham Family Cemetery, which is preserved within the new Witter Athletic complex. While most of the places about which Ms. Williams has written are now redeveloped into a movie theater, a parking structure and condos, the written reports on the City of Alexandria website allow the places to live on for the community.
LandDesign: Outstanding Archaeology-Inspired Design Project: LandDesign was selected to receive the award for its Outstanding Archaeology-Inspired Design Project due to its creativity and collaborative interaction with the Office of Historic Alexandria to develop a monument in a new development, South Carlyle Square. Although there is faint indication that Hooff’s Run Drive was near an 18th century shipping route along Great Hunting Creek, Land Design produced a design for a 80 inch diameter stainless steel globe depicting historical trading routes between Alexandria and other ports in America, Europe and the West Indies. The globe sculpture brings history where you would least expect it and depicts a long-forgotten waterway using information from the OHA/Alexandria Archaeology research files.
- Judy McConville in recognition of her outstanding example as an educator dedicated to helping teachers and students alike learn and better understand the City where they live by being responsible for K-12 History and Social Science curriculum, participating in revising the State Standards of Learning, helping administer a Teaching American History grant, and working with Alexandria Archaeology to improve school curriculums and teaching resources.
- Wesley Pippenger in recognition of his research and transcriptions of Alexandria cemetery markers and records; discovering forgotten documents; and sharing his research with Alexandria Archaeology, especially the record of burials listing the names and information of more than 1800 African-Americans who died during and after the Civil War; thereby, allowing further research and archaeological investigations of the future Contrabands and Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial; and in recognition of his discoveries of historic maps of Alexandria's waterfront used to create an accurate overlay of the historic shoreline for waterfront planning.
- Posthumously to Ellen Pickering in recognition of her advocacy for preserving and enhancing the historic and natural character of Alexandria, including the City’s historic architecture and waterfront, for a period spanning several decades, her institutional knowledge informing many town meetings, public hearings, and City Council actions, while positively guiding events and policies involving historical continuity , and being a true friend to archaeological causes.
- Vivienne Mitchell: Community Involvement: Vivienne Mitchell was a founding member of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission (AAC) in 1975 and a long-time member of the Archaeological Society of Virginia. Mrs. Mitchell’s name is synonymous with archaeology in Alexandria. After conducting excavations on the Northern Neck, Vivienne spent nearly 30 years volunteering in the Alexandria Archaeology Laboratory. She was a catalyst in the rediscovery of the Alexandria Canal Tide Lock, which led to the full excavation of the Lock, its reconstruction, and the subsequent creation of the Tide Lock Park. Vivienne was also instrumental in placing the large marker recognizing the Alexandria Canal, which still stands, on another portion of the lock near the tennis courts on South Pitt Street. Vivienne’s husband, Joe Mitchell, was also the first curator of the Fort Ward Museum and Historic Park, where the first archaeology of the City occurred in 1961.
Mrs. Mitchell’s knowledge, commitment, and love of the past have provided the foundation of the philosophy and goals of Alexandria Archaeology and the Alexandria Archaeological Commission for more than 40 years.
- Joe Reeder: Stewardship: Joe Reeder is the owner of 517 Prince Street, with a historic home and yard. Before he conducted improvements on his property, he arranged for Alexandria Archaeology to visit the property many times as a proactive measure to ensure the preservation of archaeological materials around his home and in his yard. He continually brought the City archaeologists into contact with his architect, builder, and other contractors to be sure that no archaeological information was lost.
Mr. Reeder is an outstanding example of a resident safeguarding archaeological resources as well as partnering with the City of Alexandria. He has demonstrated the best practices of archaeological stewardship as the owner of an historic property.
- Elizabeth Henry Douglas: Oral History: Elizabeth Henry Douglas grew up in the home where she lives today and has witnessed the transformation of a once rural Seminary and Oakland Baptist Church community into a 21st-century urban area. She has generously shared her stories, recollections, and knowledge of members of the African American community, who can trace their history to the Civil War period.
In 1991, “Ms Lisabeth”; as she is known by many in the community, especially the Oakland Baptist Church students and parents, participated in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum oral history program. Her knowledge of the people and events, as well as her entertaining and interesting manner of presentation, has renewed public interest in the African American residents of Fort Ward and Seminary communities. Her information forms the basis of the “African American Walking Tour” at Fort Ward, and she continues to help identify other potential archaeological sites at the Fort.
Due to Ms. Lisabeth’s love of sharing her stories and memories, the heritage of the Seminary neighborhood’s African American community, which dates back almost 150 years, is more fully recognized today and will not be forgotten in the future.
- The Louis Berger Group, Inc.- Professional Archaeology Project: The firm of Louis Berger Group, Inc., is recognized for its historical study and archaeological investigations of the Bruin Slave site located at 1707 Duke Street in the original “West End” Alexandria. The archaeological investigations were prompted by Columbia Equity Trust’s development of a large parcel surrounding the slave jail building. When the project began in 2007, archaeologists from the Louis Berger Group faced many logistical and scientific challenges. Initial investigations determined areas that had been impacted by construction as well as undisturbed areas lying under fill. Excavations proceeded in multiple stages and in small sections as modern buildings were removed from the site. The major challenge was to integrate all the information into a coherent picture of the historical mid-nineteenth century landscape. The results of the investigation have produced important new insights into African American history, slavery, and antebellum life in the City of Alexandria.
The Louis Berger Group and its staff demonstrated the highest standards of archaeological investigation and produced an outstanding report about one of the least-known places of African American enslavement. It includes groundbreaking research on the ship manifests documenting the Edmonson family’s transportation by Joseph Bruin to New Orleans and their subsequent freedom.
Sarah Borgatti - Archaeology Advocate: Sarah Borgatti is president of the Virginia Society of the Children of the American Revolution, the oldest patriotic youth organization in the United States. A primary goal of C.A.R is to raise funds for historical preservation, train leaders and good citizens, and increase knowledge of the history of the United States. As her state project, Sarah Borgatti chose to raise funds for the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology (FOAA) for their conservation efforts by selling T-shirts, holding raffles, and collecting individual society contributions. Due to Ms. Borgatti’s efforts, C.A.R. donated $6,237 to FOAA to have a conservator professionally treat a unique archaeological artifact discovered in an Alexandria well—a wooden water pump—and other smaller artifacts. These artifacts were saved and protected by Ms. Borgatti and C.A.R. Also, for several years, Sarah has been an archaeological volunteer at the Shuter’s Hill and Freedmen’s Cemetery sites.
Sarah Borgatti’s enterprising energy, which produced C.A.R.’s generous contribution, and her desire to to find and save sites exemplify the best in archaeological advocacy and volunteerism.
- Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery, founded in 1997 by Lillie Finklea and Louise Massoud to save and recognize Freedmen’s Cemetery, the once-forgotten 19th-century African-American burial ground. FFC’s efforts were highly successful, resulting in a state historical marker, the purchase of the parcel by the City of Alexandria, and ultimately the Contraband and Freedmen's Cemetery Memorial Project. The archaeological investigations at the cemetery identified almost 500 graves of freedmen and contrabands, sparking a high level of community interest in the site’s history and in Alexandria archaeology.
- T. Michael Miller, the City’s research historian whose part-time Alexandria history hobby evolved into a 30-year career in local history. Miller has produced more publications on Alexandria history than anyone else, and his research has greatly enhanced the archaeological investigations of the Lee-Fendall House, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, Shuter's Hill, Lee Street bakery and Civil War sites, Wilkes Street Tunnel, Hooff's Run Bridge and Freedmen’s Cemetery.
- Chan Mohney, who combined his fascination with the past, volunteer archaeology work and cycling abilities to develop the concept of an archaeological interpretive bike ride. Offering the “Tour de Digs,” Mohney, a longtime Alexandria Archaeological Commission member, developed the idea of biking to archaeological sites and then discussing the history of those places, and, with the help of others, this idea expanded into the Alexandria Heritage Trail guidebook and into annual trail rides during Virginia Archaeology Month.
- Historic Alexandria Foundation, incorporated more than 50 years ago to “preserve, protect and restore structures and sites of historic and archaeological interest in and associated with the City of Alexandria,” and is now a major force in preserving Alexandria’s history through its buildings, neighborhoods and unique character. For the past three years, HAF has provided funding to the Alexandria Archaeology Digital Atlas, a system of historic map overlays that are geo-rectified to Alexandria’s contemporary grid and landscape, which is now the primary tool for preservation planning and archaeology code review, ensuring great protection to archaeological resources.
- E. Sanders Partee, a resident of Alexandria, for his outstanding “backyard stewardship” and cooperation in the excavation of the 200-year-old Henry Piercy pottery in Old Town;
- Eakin/Youngentob Associates (now EYA), a local developer, for the company’s commitment to the highest quality archaeological preservation at Ford’s Landing, Stonegate and Old Town Village, where a historic wharf, ship hulls, 5000-year-old American Indian tools, and a Civil War site were documented; and
- John Milner Associates, Inc., a cultural resource management firm, for its professional archaeologists who pioneered improved methods of identifying Civil War campsites in small spaces including two camp sites and a Crimean oven, in Alexandria backyards.