Polluted Gowanus Canal Could Be Revolutionary War Treasure Trove

Historians believe plans to dredge the polluted Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn could also dig up priceless revolutionary war artifacts.

By Ida Siegal
|  Thursday, Mar 17, 2011  |  Updated 10:11 AM EDT
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Ida Siegal reports.

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Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal is most known for being a muddy-brown, foul-smelling notorious dump site near Park Slope. 

For Kimberly Maier, who runs the Revolutionary War Museum called The Old Stone House, it is full of historic potential.

"There could be bones, there could be uniforms, their could be muskets, bullets. Any leftover elements of battle," said Maier.

The Gowanus Canal runs through the site of the Battle of Brooklyn. Fought in August of 1776, it was the first official battle of the Revolutionary War. 

While the American soldiers lost the battle, it ultimately helped them win the war. The so-called Marylanders, a regiment of 400 soldiers from Maryland, fought a brutal battle on their own to hold off British Soldiers and keep an escape route clear for countless other American soldiers who had been ambushed. 

It's not clear where the bodies of the hero Marylanders are buried.  Many have speculated they could be beneath the ground of what's now a Staples on Fourth Avenue -- or they could be beneath the Gowanus Canal.

"The British had a tendency to bury traitors, as they called them, where they lay and so there could be Marylanders under Staples or at the bottom of the Canal," said Maier.

But curious historians are at the mercy of the Environmental Protection Agency, which will be conducting the cleanup.

The EPA is mandated by law to preserve historical artifacts uncovered during the cleaning of a Superfund site, but it's at their discretion and it's not their priority. 

The EPA's main concern is to rid the water and contaminates that have accumulated from nearby factories since the canal was built in 1869.

The EPA has not set a start date for the dredging of the Gowanus Canal.  A spokesperson tells NBC New York it is currently reviewing which cleanup method is most appropriate, but when the work begins, the community will be closely watching.

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