The Norse Wall
Thorwald Ericson, Leif Ericson’s brother, was said to be exploring the coast of Cape Cod about 1,000 years ago, when his ship was driven ashore at Provincetown in a terrible storm, in which the keel of his ship was broken. Replacing a broken keel back then would have taken some time to accomplish and the need for shelter would have been a necessity.
Fast forward 800 years—At the corner of Cottage and Tremont St. in Provincetown there is a small hill, long known as Chip Hill. In one version of the legend, the hill was leveled by 25 feet in 1805 for the construction of a salt works. Salt was manufactured by solar evaporation and leveling the hill would have made it easier to pump the seawater to the evaporation vats located here. The other version, which fits the name of the hill somewhat better, is that the leveling was done to create a woodworking yard where spars for ships were made, hence the name “chip hill”.
About thirty-five years later (1853), seven houses were to be constructed on this site. While digging for the foundations, a masonry wall of squared-off stones was unearthed. The stones, each about three feet high and a foot wide were assembled with mortar. Along the bottom of this wall was a pounded earthern floor made of peat, clay, and white sand, as well as the remains of a fireplace. The stones appeared to be unlike any naturally found here, which led to speculation that these could have been ballast stones from Thorwald’s ship. The ballast stones would have been removed from the ship to enable the replacement of the damaged keel.
These structural remains were found approximately 30 feet below the original surface of the ground. Back in 1853 they were not as concerned with the find as we would be today. A stone from the wall was removed and is now in the collections of the Pilgrim Monument museum. The “Norse Wall” was buried again and the house was built on top of it.
The house covering the spot has, ever since, been known as the Norse Wall Cottage.
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