Evidence of the Shipyard at Jones Point
In May 2000, this rudder was recovered along the banks of the Potomac River near Jones Point. Measuring over 22 feet high and 4.5 feet wide, the rudder is of the variety used to outfit steel cargo ships constructed between 1918 and 1920 at the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation site. Except for concrete building foundations and the finishing pier, the rudder is the last remnant of the shipbuilding industry at Jones Point.
Why put a wood rudder on a steel ship?
The answer is unknown, but modifications to shipbuilding and outfitting during times of war were often completed on an ad hoc basis, and were not recorded. A rudder of this type may have been pre-fabricated by a contractor, using more readily available materials. A wooden rudder could also have been produced more quickly, was less costly than a metal rudder, and was easier to repair at sea.
Workers found the rudder while driving piles for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Once pulled from the mud, archaeologists and historians studied the artifact. Though of slightly different shape than the one shown in the diagram at right, research indicates that the rudder is an alternate style for the ships built on site. This fragile artifact is displayed horizontally to provide better support.